We’ve spent the last three weeks looking at WHY you would want to internalize the Bible, HOW to internalize large portions, and what NOT to do when you internalize. Today is our last stop on the internalizing journey. Lists and details. How do we memorize them? I have three techniques that will make this much more doable than you think.
Technique 1: Look for Patterns
Your brain loves patterns. Associations. Repetitions. Look for them!
I have seen times when words right after each other start with the same letter. Other times, the items in a list happen to be in alphabetical order (or reverse-alphabetical). I have even found a few times where consecutive items on a list rhyme.
Whatever the pattern…pause and take notice. Making a mental note of it will help you remember it.
Technique 2: Form “chunks” of 2 or 3
For this one – and the next – I’m going to use Philippians 4:8 as our example…
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
(Phil 4:8, NIV, emphasis mine)
When I was first internalizing Philippians, I had the hardest time remembering all eight of the highlighted items in the verse above. Sometimes I would leave out one or two. Other times, I would get them out of order.
Finally, I tried a technique called “chunking.” Chunking is when you put details into “chunks” of two or three items. I won’t go into all the reasons, but you don’t want your chunk to be more than three items.
So…I reframed the way I looked at Philippians 4:8 so that true-noble-right was one chunk. Pure-lovely-admirable was a second chunk. Excellent-praiseworthy was the third chunk.
The result was I was now trying to internalize only three items instead of eight. It was shocking how fast – and lasting – the difference was!
Technique 3: Turn the first letter of each item into a sentence.
Read this sentence out loud three times.
The New Royal Prince Loves An Excellent Princess.”
Now close your eyes and see if you can say it again. Did you get it? (Yup. I thought so.)
As I mentioned earlier, when you try to memorize anything, your brain loves patterns. Each of the words in the above sentence starts with the same letter of one of the items in the list you find in Philippians 4:8.
- The = True
- New = Noble
- Royal = Right
- Prince = Pure
- Loves = Lovely
- An = Admirable
- Excellent = Excellent (See how tricky I got with that one?!)
- Princess = Praiseworthy
If you read Philippians 4:8 10-20 times and then say the “prince and princess” sentence 2-5 times, you’ll create a “trigger” that will help you memorize all eight items…and keep them in order!
Write your own sentence based on the wording of your favorite translation.
Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy — dwell on these things.”
Philippians 4:8 (CSB)
Obviously, the previous sentence wouldn’t work for internalizing the CSB. But this would…
The Hesitant Joker Performed Last, Confusing Most Every Person.”
Notice how the sentence has nothing to do with the topic. This is actually on purpose. While our brains love patterns as we memorize, what they don’t love is things that are “slightly off” from one another.
If you try to get close to the meaning, your brain will overlap the two – creating confusion. If you have something completely unrelated, your brain will focus on the pattern (which is exactly what you want).
Patterns, chunks, and sentences. Oh my! Which one are you going to try first?