We are told in Philippians 4:8 to control our thoughts:
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.Now, this always seemed a bit of a tricky deal. I know random thoughts seem to pop in my head and if a psychiatrist knew about them I'd probably get locked up. You know the ones: "What would it actually be like to get run over by this bus?" or "How hard is it to steal candy from a baby?" or "If my annoying brother is going to be with Jesus when he dies, surely murdering him isn't that wrong?" (Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about). I'm pretty sure thoughts about petty theft or a blatant disregard for my or my brother's longevity probably do not come under any of the categories mentioned in Philippians.
Martin Luther was attributed with saying something along the lines of "you can't stop birds flying over your head, but you can stop them from making a nest." He meant that you cannot stop these random thoughts from popping into your mind, but you can stop them taking hold.
Sometimes, especially when tired or stressed, it feels like I'm playing a constant game of Whac-a-Mole in my mind. One negative thought pops up, I manage to bop it on the head and then along comes another one. Soon the (somewhat extended) metaphorical hammer is discarded on the floor and these evil moles are appearing telling me lies about myself, my friends and the rest of the world.
I think, perhaps, we have to get in the culture of actively thinking about positive things. We should try and minimise space for these negative thoughts to appear in. Here are some ideas of how I'm going to try and do this:
- write down 3 things everyday that I want to thank God for. They have to be different from any other days. This was done in a scientific study about positive thinking habits and apparently it works.
- if I am thinking resentful thoughts about someone I'll write ten things I respect about that person (hopefully, this will calm my urge to murder poor Stephen).
- memorise helpful Bible passages to think over.
- write down negative thoughts on a piece of paper and write down why they're stupid, unhelpful or unbiblical.
- and (my fail safe youth worker answer) pray about it.
- What tips do you have?
- Do you think I need professional help?