How a Pastor Faced His Fears and Confronted Racism – Pt. 5 with Miles McPherson

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

When Pastor Miles McPherson made the decision to write The Third Option, his new book on racism, he was racked with the fear that the final product would divide his church. In the fifth and final episode of the “Racism and the Brain” series, Miles reveals the surprising effect his book is having on his congregation.


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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way podcast, I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain, to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD and addictions.

Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warriors Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to target treatment and natural ways to treat the brain. For more information visit

Tana Amen: The Brain Warriors Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information visit Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way podcast.

Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. As I promised we're going to kill Pastor Miles McPherson's ANTs.

Tana Amen: Make sure you throw the ANTs in there.

Dr Daniel Amen: We love Pastor Miles so we're going to help him-

Tana Amen: We're going to get him an anteater.

Dr Daniel Amen: Live in an ANT free zone. And he's the author of this new wonderful book, "The Third Option."

Tana Amen: You can get it on Amazon, right?

Dr Daniel Amen: You can get it on Amazon-

Tana Amen: Any bookseller really.

Dr Daniel Amen: Pastor Miles McPherson or Miles McPherson-

Pastor Miles McPherson: At

Dr Daniel Amen: At, SD Rock.

Pastor Miles McPherson: .com, yup.

Dr Daniel Amen: So when I was there, thank you for inviting me, I had so much fun.

Pastor Miles McPherson: Our church loved having you, they want you to come back.

Dr Daniel Amen: Well I would love that. We talked about how to not believe every stupid thought you have and we taught them a process of how to kill the ANTs, how not to believe everything you think. And the most powerful exercise we did is we actually started by working on your fears of writing, "The Third Option." Because your ANT, your automatic negative thought, that tortured you for a long time was this book is going to divide my church.

Pastor Miles McPherson: Yes.

Tana Amen: Interesting.

Pastor Miles McPherson: So racism is a volatile subject and every time you bring it up people just … They get tense. So I started writing the book, and as I was writing it, people were saying to me, "Are you going to really write that? Are you going write that?" From both sides, from white and black. "You're not going to be able to write a good because you're not going to be able to be honest enough for the whites, you're going to offend the whites, you're going to offend the blacks." Literally for a year on Sunday I would sit there and look at my congregation and be full of fear-

Tana Amen: That's fascinating.

Pastor Miles McPherson: Thinking this is going to divide the church because people don't want to hear it, people are closed. And I think that the biggest aha for me in writing this book is learning how tp, which I have great confidence I could do but it took me a long time, write about hard topics in a way that everyone could apply to themselves, while at the same time addressing the issues that people need to hear.

But I've rewritten it and rewritten it, but a lot of times I was sitting there going, "What did I do? I made a big mistake, I shouldn't be writing this book, I should have just written a book about prayer or something real basic."

But when I got my literary agent, I said, "I don't want to write a book that pastors write about, I don't want to write just a regular book because I'm a pastor. I want to write something that's going to impact the culture." And this popped in my lap.

So for a year I had these negative thoughts of … And I would literally sit there and think I shouldn't write this sentence, this sentence, this word.

Tana Amen: Yeah, you were very cautious.

Pastor Miles McPherson: I was scared because those words and phrases are still in the book. But I had to rewrite them in a way that people can get it. My brother was a professional boxer and sometimes you can knock somebody out but you keep hitting them so much they can't go down.

Tana Amen: Interesting.

Pastor Miles McPherson: So if you knock them out, you have to give them room to fall.

Tana Amen: That's so interesting.

Pastor Miles McPherson: I had written a couple of drafts that were just pounding, pounding, because I think I had more pain that I knew. The people working with me were saying, "Wow, that's a little harsh."

But that wasn't my intent so I had to soften it, soften it, so people can read it, black, white, Hispanics, Asian, whoever and go, "This makes sense for me. This is going to help me get along." That was the goal but there was a process where I didn't think I was doing that.

Dr Daniel Amen: And so in front of the whole church, on several occasions-

Tana Amen: You didn't do it, you did not.

Dr Daniel Amen: We went after that thought.

Tana Amen: That's so fun.

Dr Daniel Amen: This book will divide the church.

Pastor Miles McPherson: Yes.

Dr Daniel Amen: And then I asked him the questions that we teach you.

Tana Amen: I love this, this is great.

Dr Daniel Amen: Is it true?

Pastor Miles McPherson: Is it true? We are just now giving this book … We just gave last week a few copies, we got some early copies, and 98% of my fear is gone, but I'm like, "I wonder what people are going to think as they start really reading it." Yes, we went through, is it true? No.

Tana Amen: You can't know it's true.

Pastor Miles McPherson: I will really, really, really know when we have people read it but I don't believe it's true now. But if you had-

Dr Daniel Amen: I have to give you another little piece of [crosstalk 00:05:29]

Tana Amen: Can I just throw one thing in? You're a man of God, right?

Pastor Miles McPherson: Yes.

Tana Amen: So God inspires you. So you're fighting with-

Dr Daniel Amen: But he's also a man.

Tana Amen: I know, right, but I'm just thinking. I've had this thought for so long that-

Dr Daniel Amen: He's also a man. I want to give you this rule, it's called the 18-40-60 rule. It says when you're 18 you worry about what everybody's thinking of you and when you're 40 you don't give a damn what anybody thinks about you and when you're 60 you realize no one has been thinking about you at all. People spend their days worrying and thinking about themselves, not you. So that has helped me immensely.

Pastor Miles McPherson: And I'm almost 60. I'm really close.

Tana Amen: Wow, you've been taking good care of yourself.

Pastor Miles McPherson: I'll be 60 in a year-and-a-half.

Tana Amen: You look amazing.

Pastor Miles McPherson: Thank you.

Dr Daniel Amen: So the thought that tortured him, this book is going to tear apart my church, is that true? I don't know. Can you absolutely know that it's true, with 100% certainty, the book will divide my church?

Pastor Miles McPherson: That is absolutely no, I cannot know that 100%.

Dr Daniel Amen: How do you feel when you believe the thought this book is going to divide my church?

Pastor Miles McPherson: Petrified. Failure, I made a mistake, anxious, nervous, nothing good. It was paralyzing at times. It wasn't only on Sunday, it was just on Sunday that they were standing in front of me. It was all week. And it was a spiritual attack.

Now, the reality is I could have written a book that would have divided my church. That's the reality so it's not like it's out of nowhere. This is a very volatile topic and very sensitive topic, emotional topic. And I had friends telling me, white and black, "You better not write that," and "If you write that this is what it's going to do to my people, my clique, my N group." So I was getting that from both sides but I had signed the contract.

Tana Amen: But it also almost feels like ignoring the elephant in the room when you just say, "Okay, I'm not going to write it." There's an elephant in the room. Someone's got to address it in a healthy way.

Pastor Miles McPherson: Correct. However my goal and my calling in life is to share the gospel and bring people together. If I, in an effort to bring people together, divide people, then I missed something somewhere.

Tana Amen: I can see where, right.

Dr Daniel Amen: So getting rid of the ANTs does not mean we're not thoughtful.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: Right? Who would you have been without that thought? How would you feel if you didn't have that thought, this book is going to divide my church?

Pastor Miles McPherson: Getting back to the answer, I'll say this, there's two sides of that. Without the thought I am so empowered and encouraged. But as you very wisely said, because this is what you do, a little bit of anxiety is good. So in the process of writing it, I'm a fairly intelligent guy, I'm listening to what people are saying, going, "That makes sense. How can I rewrite that then differently?"

Tana Amen: I love that. That's smart.

Pastor Miles McPherson: And that's what I had to go through. We sent it to the publisher and, for different reasons, she sent it back. For different reasons, not that it was offensive, but just grammatical stuff. And I had another person come help me rewrite the whole thing. And that person came and said, "This is not the Pastor Miles that I know." And she helped me rewrite the whole thing with the tone that I really always wanted. I just didn't know that I didn't have that tone because I'm not the writer, I'm more of the idea guy. I'm from New York where being blunt is normal.

Tana Amen: I should have been from New York.

Pastor Miles McPherson: But that anxiety it worked to my advantage, however, it tortured me. But without it now I am so encouraged and I think one of the things you said in our lunch was when you get rid of those ANTs you're able to fulfill what God's called you. And I cannot tell you since two weeks ago how I have changed and think about that every day. I am so much more encouraged. It's almost like someone took the lid off of my life and I now can say, "I can do so much more now without the fear of these ANTs." Again, I'm continually getting rid of them. But without anxiety and fear and these negative thoughts there's so much more encourage to go do and say what God is calling me to do and say.

Dr Daniel Amen: So without the thought you're still thoughtful, but you're powerful.

Pastor Miles McPherson: Yes, powerful.

Dr Daniel Amen: And you're not suffering. You can take that energy that going into anxiety and suffering and turn it into motivation to live your purpose, right? Because without doing this book, if you would have let the thoughts control you, you would have actually decreased your level of purpose on the planet. So what's the opposite of this book will divide us?

Pastor Miles McPherson: Not only is this book going to change and unify our church, again in our church when I tell people, "Find someone who doesn't look like you," all they have to do is do this. They're not looking around the room. Boom, that's how it's going to make us even stronger but it's also going to help churches and the culture as a whole in the nation. That's what I believe.

Tana Amen: I really like that.

Pastor Miles McPherson: And so my opposite is going to change America. If it goes around the world, great, but I like the United States of America, this is my home.

Tana Amen: It was a while ago I was saying this to you, because I'm watching on television all these problems between the neighborhoods with police officers, it feels to me like the racial division is just terrible right now. And I was actually saying we need someone to come forward that has a positive message that can somehow bring this back together. It's going to take someone really special with a special message. And we haven't had that for a long time.

Dr Daniel Amen: And "The Third Option" does that.

Tana Amen: I'm really hoping that that's-

Dr Daniel Amen: But these ANTs that were bothering you for the book, they've been attacking your for a long time, haven't they?

Pastor Miles McPherson: Yes. The fear of rejection. I'm a man of God but, as you said, we're human. I think one of the burdens pastors have, which I know that I have this burden, is having to look like I'm perfect. Because I take about my sins all the time. I did cocaine, my wife were a mess because I was a mess before we got married. But, yeah, you grow up with fear of rejection, especially when I was growing up I was rejected in both my neighborhoods. I never had to process that and what that really meant, what that really means to me today.

So absolutely the fear of being rejected, the fear of being embarrassed on television and being shamed and not doing well. I grew up achieving. Football was, ever since 10-years-old, I achieved. You have to be good to get a trophy at the end of the year. They had the participants' trophy, we didn't have that. This was the participants' trophy, thanks for coming. So absolutely, those ANTs have bothered me all my life.

Dr Daniel Amen: And it's true for most people. [crosstalk 00:13:12]

Pastor Miles McPherson: All people don't have ANTs?

Dr Daniel Amen: I think all people. Well, no, sociopaths actually don't. They don't have [crosstalk 00:13:20] anxiety. Some anxiety is good. People have low levels of anxiety they go to jail because they don't have enough anxiety to go, "Don't do that. That's stupid." But most of us have ANTs.

But what I love about my NFL players and the professional athletes I treat is they're used to being coached. And so when I ask them to do something-

Pastor Miles McPherson: They do it.

Dr Daniel Amen: They do it.

Pastor Miles McPherson: With intensity.

Dr Daniel Amen: And so what have you done with the ANTs since we [crosstalk 00:13:51]

Pastor Miles McPherson: Let me tell you, I have my book right here. Can I get it? Okay, I got to show you. It's in my other bag. I have a little notebook. People always give me these little journals and I have this little journal, it's my ANT journal. And every day, almost every day, I write ANTs, automatic negative thoughts, and then I go through the six questions. What's the thought? I write it out. Is it true? Is it 100%? Can I know for 100%? I write the verses out. How does it make me feel? How would I feel without it? And I do the opposite.

And I can tell you, you said to do 100 of them, so my goal is to do 100 up until when the book launches. This book launches September 11, get it on Amazon. But to do 100 by then to totally rewire my brain. I like science so I like the rewiring, I get all that. I just write stuff down. I try to think of a negative thought, because a lot of them are gone, a lot of the ANTs have been killed. So I know there's a couple of them hiding in the corner somewhere so I try to spray water in there-

Tana Amen: Yeah, they're a little like cockroaches, somehow they keep popping up. You just have to be aware of them, right.

Pastor Miles McPherson: Yeah, have babies and-

Tana Amen: And it's okay as long as you know and you've got a solution.

Pastor Miles McPherson: As long as I know. And I talk about since you were there three Sundays ago, I talked about it at church again this past Sunday and people love the ANTs. They love the six steps, they love it, it's changed their life. I have probably gotten more positive comments from this series on the brain called "Mind Your Business" that I just finished than any other series and you were a big part of that, they loved it.

Tana Amen: That's fantastic.

Dr Daniel Amen: You don't have to suffer. You don't have to allow the automatic negative thoughts to steal your happiness, but you have to develop a discipline around them. Whenever you feel sad, whenever you feel mad, whenever you feel nervous or out of control, write down what you think and then ask yourself is it true? Stay with us.

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