William James is credited with having penned the words, “As a man thinketh so is he.” His words underscore the significant link that exists between the cognitive and the behavioral dimensions of our lives. It’s true that how we think influences how we feel and behave. In fact, in my personal life, as well as in my counseling work, one of the issues I come across more often than not involves a thinking problem. It reminds me of the story about a grandfather who was watching his 9 year old grandson one day. After playing together outside for a while, the grandfather decided to take a short nap in his recliner, which gave his mischievous grandson time to think up a trick he could play on his grandfather. Finding some limburger cheese in the refrigerator, the grandson decided to gently spread some on his grandfather’s mustache while he slept. A short while later the grandfather woke up and said, “Something sure stinks in this room!” So he got up and walked in to the kitchen and said, “Something stinks in this kitchen as well!” He then proceeded to walk throughout the entire house and declared, “This whole house stinks!” The whole time the real stink was under his very own nose!
That’s the way it is with our thinking. Quite often, the way we think can make everything in our lives…our relationships, our feelings about ourselves, our work, as well as our feelings about the present and the future totally stink!
In order to correct our problem, we first need to step aside from all the busyness of life for a moment of solitude and think about what we are thinking about. What are the automatic or distorted thoughts and beliefs that we are allowing to assume squatter’s rights in our minds? Being conscious of these thoughts and naming them for what they are is the first step to overcoming them.
Additionally, we are wise to be proactive rather than reactive with our thoughts. This means being intentional to sow in to our minds life-giving thoughts, things that ignite our passions and creativity, as well as the promises and truths found in Scripture. It means being diligent to guard what we allow to occupy our thoughts. In Philippians 4:8 the Apostle Paul writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.” Scripture, as well as good devotional readings, books, novels, articles, cd’s, dvd’s, movies and conversations are all things we can employ in our efforts to be proactive in shaping our thoughts.
Finally, we need to think about what we listen to. Are we listening to and allowing ourselves to be influenced and driven by the fears, the anxieties, the obsessive thoughts, the critical messages, the impulses and the feelings that flood our minds and demand our attention? Or, are we more attuned to the voice, prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit? Many of us may struggle to rise above what feels like the incessant nagging of critical, self-defeating thoughts and then wonder why we feel discouraged, defeated and disillusioned. The truth is…it all begins in our thoughts, and with those things that we allow to shape and influence our thoughts. In 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 we are reminded that, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
Everyday we make choices. We choose the food we eat, the roads we travel, the things we read, the sights we see, the conversations we have, and the thoughts we think. And everyday we have to live with and walk through the consequences of the choices we make…for better or for worse. My prayer for all of us is that we would not only walk with an awareness of all that hinges on our thoughts, in short, our spiritual, emotional, relational and physical health, but that we would also think the kind of thoughts that produce good, positive feelings, leading to life-giving, God-honoring behaviors.
Keeping the Faith,
Dr. David Moenning
For Additional Reference: Who Switched Off My Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf