Have you ever heard of a seemingly very happy person, who ended up committing suicide? In the aftermath of these terrible events, people are almost always shocked and sometimes describe the person as pleasant, or even vibrant, and not someone they would've expected to end their life. While sad, these events underscore the importance of healthy thinking. I have found that some of the happiest people in public can actually be the saddest thinkers in private, or those who seem the kindest outwardly may be the meanest thinkers inwardly. It's scary to think that someone you know as one way, could actually be very different.
It's just too easy for us to forget the power of a thought.
I believe our thoughts are so much more powerful than our words. In fact, they typically come before speech and dictate our decision-making.
Our thoughts drive everything we do. How we feel about ourselves, our spouse, our children, what we perceive our reputation to be, how we calculate risk, our view towards God. Everything! Think about this, we all spend much more time thinking about things, than we do in actual speech or physical activities. It's not a zero-sum game either because we are still thinking while we talk or walk or anything else we physically do throughout the day.
The real point of this post is not to convince anyone of the ubiquitous nature of our thoughts, but rather the importance of our thoughts, and ultimately our heart since it's the root of who a person is.
Do we proactively evaluate the health of our thoughts?
We know via psychology that the difference between positive and negative thinking has enormous effects on an individual's life. For instance, studies have shown those who have thoughts of worry, paranoia, or insecurity are also more likely to exhibit jealousy in their relationships. By the way, in my opinion, jealousy can be one of the most harmful sins as people will rarely admit to struggling with it, resulting in the silent destruction of relationships. We've all felt it at times, some more than others, nobody will ever admit it though, ha!
Finally, what about the heart? How does our heart factor into all of this?
I can tell you that anytime I've had a wrong thought and subsequently have said something I regret, it's almost always because my heart was in the wrong place.
Since thoughts cannot be heard or measured, we tend to only put an emphasis on our words in society. Consider this though, if we manage our words well, and speak kindly but have continually unhealthy or wrongful thoughts, are we really living a full life? Probably not.
I have never been one to cling to a life verse as there are too many great choices, but if I had to choose, it would be Psalm 51:10. It reads, "Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me." I can't tell you how many times I've prayed this verse. I am a sinful person! This verse is important to me because I know if my heart is in the right place, my thoughts and words will follow suit. Proverbs 4:23 confirms this as it says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."
I think the longer I live, I can see the linear progression of living a Godly life. I like to think of it as Heart > Thoughts > Actions. All three areas are really important to me. If our actions are great but we don't think the best of people or give them the benefit of the doubt, what does that say about our heart? I can probably save this for another post, but if you are wondering how to work on your heart, for me personally, it happens via alone time with God (prayer + scripture) and a remorseful spirit after sin.