Our thoughts are powerful. Tremendously powerful. They can renew or refresh our mind, body, emotions and spirit. Our thoughts, when negative or toxic, can also poison us. Toxic thinking can lead to physical illness, emotional distress and loss of hope.
Having worked for over 10 years as a crisis counselor with adolescents in a middle school setting, helping to create healthy habits and building quality character traits was a primary task for everyone in contact with those young adults. I remember a motivational poster we had in our hallway that addressed the link between our thinking and our character. Does this sound familiar to you?
“Watch your thoughts, they lead to attitudes;
Watch your attitudes, they lead to words;
Watch your words, they lead to actions;
Watch your actions, they lead to habits;
Watch your habits, they form your character;
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) states, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Our thoughts determine who we are and direct us in our relationships. Toxic thoughts trigger negative and anxious emotions—about ourselves (“I’m such a loser,” “I’m so ugly,” “I’ll never be happy,” “I’ll always be alone,” for example) or about others (“He is selfish and stubborn,” “She is constantly complaining about something,” “She is never satisfied with anything I do,” or “He is so clueless“).
As we think, our thoughts shape our attitude, reflect our state of mind and mold our emotional well being. Emotions are involved in every thought we create—past, present and future.
Here’s the amazing news, however—we can CHOOSE what we think about! If our thoughts are typically negative or toxic, we have the power to stop those poisonous thoughts, change our thinking and do what Paul refers to in his letter to the Philippians:
“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)
As a bit of a Star Wars geek, I like to quote Yoda when he is training Luke to become a Jedi Knight—“You must unlearn what you have learned.” We have learned toxic thinking. As long as we continue doing a behavior consistently in a given situation, a habit will form.
And so it is with our thinking. We can “unlearn” our habit of having and listening and believing our toxic thoughts. And the even better news is that we don’t have to do this on our own! As flawed individuals, we often do not have enough strength within ourselves to be able to “unlearn” our unhealthy habits. As Christians, however, we have the greatest resource available to help us and guide us and strengthen us on our journey toward change. God is glorified when we call on him to help us through our struggles. The apostles write about Jesus’ desire to care for us in their gospels:
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others…” (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45).
In Ephesians 4:23 Paul instructs us to “…let the Spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes.”
Asking God to help us change our thinking brings Him joy. It draws us in closer relationship to Him, and we experience a deep satisfaction of knowing that we are not alone. The Creator of the Universe helps us each step of the way as we grow and change and develop new, healthy habits in our thought processes.
Are you interested in learning more about stopping toxic thinking? Any of the therapists here at Cornerstone Christian Counseling are available to partner with you to learn and practice practical ways to change and “unlearn what you have learned.”
May the “true” Force (the Living Christ) be with you!