Don’t Even Think About It

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God’s power and strength are only available to us in this present moment. Being aware of what is happening for you in the present moment is a great launching point to start examining and working with your thoughts. Most of us would agree that our thinking gets us in trouble sometimes, so being able to have a right relationship with our own thoughts is critical.

Familiar Bible verses can be found to encourage a right relationship with thoughts such as “and do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2 NKJV) and “we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5 ESV). But often, the message we get is an encouragement to eliminate our “bad” thoughts; somehow get rid of them because bad thoughts equal bad behavior. And it’s true, we do need to be transformed and obey Christ in our thinking. Trying hard to eliminate thoughts is the root of a lot of discouragement; you don’t have to try this method for very long before you fail. If I say “no matter what you do, do NOT think about ice cream”, I guarantee you will be eating ice cream by the time the day is over! It will be all that you can think about.

So the first step here is to drop the judgment and to start observing what we are actually thinking. This is the first step, I’m not suggesting that we just allow bad or wrong thoughts to simply be okay. But we often jump too soon into the treatment plan before we accurately diagnose what is happening. As Christ-followers, we do believe in absolute truth in the person of Jesus Christ. There is a line of right and wrong. However, before we jump to judgment and treatment, let’s allow ourselves to be curious and compassionate about our experience in the process of our diagnosis.

Remember that instead of trying to control our thoughts, which can’t be done, we are trying instead to have a right relationship with our thoughts. So what exactly are thoughts? Thoughts are simply patterns of words, or stories. We think of our thoughts as true, but often they are not. Here’s a silly little exercise: Think really hard right now “I can NOT lift my arm. I can NOT lift my arm”. Now lift your arm. Your thinking that you couldn’t lift your arm didn’t really affect your ability to lift your arm, did it? Of course not. The truth is, you can think anything in your head, and it may or may not be true.

A right relationship with my thoughts means that I understand that my thoughts are simply strings of words and pictures. They may be true, or they may be untrue. I’m allowed to examine and assess them, and then I’m allowed to choose whether or not I’d like to act on them or behave according to them. My goal isn’t to stop them, push them away or label them – but rather to see them as they are. If my thoughts help me move towards my values or towards Christ-centered living, then I can use them for action. If they don’t, I can allow them to just float on by, making room for something else.

EXERCISE: This week, in order to become more aware of your thought patterns, set a timer on your smartphone for four random times per day. Carry a small notebook, and each time the alarm sounds, simply write down the last thing you were thinking before the alarm sounded. Have no judgment about your thoughts – you are simply trying to see if there is a pattern to your thinking, or problematic thoughts that you notice arise again and again.

 Now, assess those thoughts for truth. So if you thought “my boss is a jerk”, is that true? It might be true that you don’t like what she just did, but it probably isn’t true that her whole character is a jerk. Or if you thought “I’m a terrible father”, is that true? You may have made a mistake or not spent enough time with your kids lately, but I bet you can think of some ways that you are a good father also. It may be true that you can improve based on your thought, but the thought itself might not be true. Also be aware that some thoughts that are NOT true can feel very true, because you’ve been thinking them for so long. But “I’m worthless” can’t possibly be true for anyone when judged against the truth of the Bible and God’s love for you. So if you have trouble determining truth, try seeing what the Bible has to say.

*Read my comment(s). My dear friend has agreed to give her non-therapist view of my crazy ideas to get the conversation started.  Jump in!*

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One thought on “Don’t Even Think About It

  1. I like the way you ended this post. If my thoughts move me toward my values or Christ centered living, then I can use them for action. If they don’t, then I can allow them to just float on by, making room for something else. What a great picture. It has taken me awhile to understand and believe that my thoughts may or may not be true. Calling it a story, is even more challenging for me to grasp. If it’s a story, doesn’t that mean I’m being deceitful, lying or making it up? I equate telling a story, to a fabricated tale, or creating some plausible cover up to an elaborate lie.

    Understanding more about thoughts in general, and my own specifically has allowed greater ability to tolerate someone else’s, especially when their thoughts are different from mine. Some might argue, I’m still not very good at it! Its hard not to get caught up in and believe I’m right, and only my perspective is really true. It’s pretty easy to be curious about my own thoughts, and not curious at all about someone else’s. I don’t need to be curious if I’m right. But this way of thinking only wreaks havoc in my relationships.

    Understanding that thoughts are just words or stories that everyone has, has helped me gain a right perspective. I don’t have to be right. I don’t need to get up in arms because another person is lying or making something up about me that’s not true. Being curious opens up opportunity to improve communication and resolve misunderstanding.

    It has been a challenge for me not to believe and think the worst. Why not think the best about people first, assume that nothing is wrong unless or until it is? It’s impossible to count the number of times I’ve ended up way down the road believing something, or thinking I knew, based on a story, not a lie, but a series of thoughts all quietly mulled over in the silence of my head. Does it mean that none of my thoughts is true? Probably some of my thoughts have been spot on, while others have not even been close. However, is there value in all the mental gymnastics? Nope, there is no value added. A lot of harm and unnecessary brokenness have resulted, but no value.

    These are some of my thoughts, on thoughts.

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