Actions, Words, Thoughts

One of the signs of growing Christian maturity is in the area of self-control.  But, this is not a single effort, or single goal, as if to say, “I now have self-control”, but like many things it is a process.

One of the first areas we typically work to bring under control is our actions.  This makes a lot of sense, as it is often our actions which bring immediate, negative response from those around us.  It is also true that often actions, once done, cannot be easily reversed, and in some cases can never be reversed or corrected.  So, from a practical standpoint it makes perfect sense that we work on our actions as a starting point.

But, there are additional things that need to be brought under self-control – like our words.  It could be argued that words misspoken at the wrong time, wrong place, could do as much, if not more, damage than actions.  It is true, that words can make lasting impressions, and cause much long-term damage.  It’s not just the words that are spoken, but there are things to learn in when to speak, and when to say nothing at all.  Knowing what to say, when to say it, and when to be silent all fall under the general category of self-control.

Finally, we come to ‘thoughts’.  Some might argue that everything really is controlled from the mind including words, actions, and thoughts, so why don’t we just start with the mind and cover all the bases with one blow?  That is a perfectly good approach, but in reality it doesn’t seem to work out quite that way.  While it is true everything originates from the mind, it tends to work better when we can rationalize and separate the various issues into compartments, rather than just creating a general category and dump them all it at one time.  To put it simply, we do better when we can take things a step at a time, and let the Lord guide our progress.

Now back to ‘thoughts’.  If I had to guess where many Christians are today, it would be that they have made significant progress in controlling their actions and their words, but still struggle with the ‘thoughts’.  We can refrain from destructive actions, and from saying words that we might regret later, but the ‘bad’ thoughts often remain.  Why is this?  I think the simple answer is because actions and words are public, but thoughts are private, and because they are private they are hidden from view, so no one really knows but us.  So, while I may publicly act and say nice things towards someone I dislike, my thoughts are bad.

This disharmony between actions, words, and thoughts, however, is destructive to our well-being.  The conflict it raises destroys our chance at peace, calmness, and serenity.  The solution – we must master our thoughts as well as our actions and words.

All this sounds well and good, but you cannot control thoughts as easily as we might control our actions and words.  They won’t just go away because we tell them to.  It’s a bit more complicated than that.  While they cannot be dismissed or caused to vanish, they can be transformed.  But, this will not be an easy or trivial task.  It cannot be done half-hearted or willy-nilly.  It takes concentrated effort, awareness, and help from the Spirit of God to do this.  But, it can be done.  For sake of brevity I will only use one small example of what I’m talking about.  Take the thoughts you have regarding your ‘enemy’.

I’m not talking about the Devil here, but about someone who you consider to be your ‘enemy’.  This person has caused you harm, distress, discomfort, destruction, etc…

How in the world can you transform your thoughts toward this person?  The answer is really simple – you must transform them into your friend.  Now, understand – it would be wonderful if we could actually turn enemies into friends, but it is not necessary that they actually become physical friends, although that would be nice.  What is necessary is that in your own mind, they are no longer in the ‘enemy’ category.  How can this be done?

I know of only two things that work – prayer and practice.  Praying for your enemy will begin the transforming process.  But, a single prayer is not going to do the trick.  Practice, or repeated prayers, will, though.  By doing this you will transform your bad thoughts, but it takes time and patience.

 

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One Response to “Actions, Words, Thoughts”

  1. beamcguire@gmail.com Says:

    I LOVED this blog and so wish that every Christian alive could read it. You truly have the answer here…..prayer. It works! I’m living proof of it when it comes to our enemies. Wish I had learned this years and years ago but as you said, some things are a process! Great read! Blessings….

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