The popular phrase “We are what we eat” seems to gain more strength as science catches up with prophet’s counsel from years back. Equally potent – maybe more so- is the phrase, “We are what we think.”
What do we spend our day’s minutes thinking about? How carefully do we stand guard at the doorway of our mind’s stage? Because our feet will never take us somewhere our mind has not earlier carried us, it makes sense to entertain the best of thoughts and toss out the lesser ones.
What little customs or habits do you employ to keep a sound testimony? Have you pin- pointed days or times when dark or troubling thoughts seek to invade? What do you do when you need to feed the mind positives in order to kick out the negatives?
President Packer offered the idea of singing a hymn when mental activity tries to compromise us. Comparing our mind to a stage, his counsel has been to shove away those less than helpful thoughts rather than keeping them center stage, and ‘entertaining’ them.
He said: “Once you learn to clear the state of your mind or unworthy thoughts, keep it busy with learning worthwhile things. Change your environment so that you have things about you that will inspire good and uplifting thoughts. Keep busy with things that are righteous.”
If we think about our ability to control thoughts, we can think of a channel changer for a television. When a station is showing a program we don’t want to see, it is momentarily ‘on stage’ where we can see, hear, and digest words we don’t want to take in. So, we quickly change the channel, inviting a more acceptable program to take center stage.
This way, we learn to control what is in our minds, rather than feeling like a helpless victim of thoughts, ideas, and notions that are not in keeping with our best values.
Even though David of the Old Testament is a “man after [God’s] own heart”, remaining true to the Lord’s laws for so many years, he falls because he compounds poor choice after poor choice. The decline of David is a powerful example of why we must ever stand our guard. In small ways, we can build our mental capacity to keep righteous focus.
Here are a few simple ‘can do’s’ to clear our mind or to focus on positives when the negatives start to crowd out our better thoughts:
• Quietly sing a hymn [aloud or to ourselves]
• Change the channel in our mind to a better ‘station’ of thought
• Picture our Savior
• Write things down. If they are negative, toss them away [and mentally toss the baggage that goes with them]
• Keep a simple, silly joke mentally handy. Pull it out when negatives creep in
• Think of a sacred experience in our past and re-live it in our mind
• Have an outbox in the mind. Send the ugly thoughts down the garbage chute from that outbox without contemplation
• Call a good friend or family member and get our mind engaged in positive dialogue
• Pray and ask for help
The world is heavy with poor options – options that bring instant gratification but long-term misery; choices we are ‘free’ to make, yet ones that may carry a hefty price tag. As far as I can tell, no one makes an immediate leap of the cliff of standards…. It happens over a period of time, and tiny step after tiny step. With offerings of alternative lifestyles and alternative routines, worldly options vary according to public outcry and the current politically correct stance. The world’s thinking has seemingly gone mad.
In a scampering to find acceptance or to fit in, many take tiny steps of changing their thought processes, and entertaining a standard – or a television show, if you will- that they would never have previously accepted. Sadly, even strong testimonies and soft hearts can be changed if we don’t keep up our guard, watch our thoughts and temper our feelings.
William Shakespeare captured the essence of a fallen soul’s sadness if he is drawn in by unethical or immoral enticing:
What win I if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy?
Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week
Or sells eternity for a toy?
For one sweet grape, who would the vine destroy?
Of what found beggar but to touch the crown,
Would with the scepter straight be stricken down?
The gospel of Jesus Christ unapologetically stands on the standards that have stood for generations – based on more lofty long-term goals.
Individually, we can grab that remote control and keep our finger on the pulse of our mental environment. When a quick shift is needed, we can engineer it. Over the course of a day, we can successfully learn to dump the negative, the doubting, and the mindless. We can draw near to heaven and fill our souls with warmth and hope.
In doing so, we may triumphantly overcome Satan’s sharpened tools for ‘taking us out’ by taking over our thought processes. Long term, we may remain true to the truth. We will fill our minds and our souls with goodness. We will be strong, faithful, and righteous, because we have learned that ‘we are what we think!’