What Were You Thinking?
By: Eddie Riley, CLCS Administrator
“The quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life.” (A. R. Bernard)
“Your attitude more than your aptitude will determine your altitude.” (John Maxwell)
“We become what we think about.” (Marcus Aurelius, 121-180 AD)
As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7)
If you think about it, how or what we think about is reflected in our attitudes and ultimately our actions.
To think pessimistically creates a paranoiac low self-esteem sometimes referred to as the “Eeyore syndrome.” A person that is habitually or chronically depressed, sad, melancholy, gloomy etc., for more days than not. They are over concerned with their problems, no matter how small. They tend to have a round the clock “poor me” attitude. Being around these people has a tendency to “suck the life” out of others. They fear that everyone is after them. Panic stricken they have no hope.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that a third of Americans show signs of clinical depression and anxiety. These and other mental conditions are becoming amplified during the recent pandemic, while COVID-19 patients and their families are also at high risk to develop depression and anxiety. There are various factors related to COVID-19 that contribute to the increase in depression rates, including: trauma from widespread disease, grief over losses of life, fear of getting sick, unprecedented physical distancing, financial concerns, including unemployment and housing insecurity, and loss of community due to social distancing mandates.
The American Psychological Association reports that more than 64% of Americans are on an anti-depressant medicine. There has been a spike of almost 14% increase over the last month. They also cite that the use of anti-depressant medications increases with age and that women are twice as likely to use these medicines as men.
The rates of those reported having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before the June CDC survey are higher among those between ages 18-24 (25.5%), essential workers (21.7%), and minority racial/ethnic groups (18.6% Hispanic, 15.1% non-Hispanic Black).
On the other hand, to think too highly of ourselves creates an arrogant, proud, and boastful sense of invulnerable invincibility. When we think this way, we often believe that we are an exception to the rules, entitled, and irreplaceable. They tend to have the “I’m great just ask me” attitude while condescending to others deemed less worthy. Human beings are glory junkies. In other words, we’re all addicted to the pursuit of self-glory.
Why do we talk too much about ourselves? Why do we get so defensive when someone challenges us? A very helpful diagnosis comes from the Apostle Paul. He writes,
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.” (Romans 12:3)
Dr. Paul Tripp, pastor, event speaker, and a best-selling and award-winning author states, “I’m deeply persuaded that we’re addicted to the pursuit of self-glory because, when we look in the mirror, we think we see someone who deserves to be glorified. Instead of using the mirror of God’s Word to keep our judgment sober, we see a skewed version of who the Bible says we actually are.”
Blame-shifting can be traced back to the Garden of Eden when the first human, blamed the first woman, and both blamed the serpent. We often blame others for enduring anything bad in our lives, but we forget that it is mostly in our thoughts that determine how we are going to live. The antithesis of blaming others for our trials is self-aggrandizement, accepting credit and honor for things others are responsible. The Bible says, “For who [makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? ” (I Cor. 4:7). Those rhetorical questions lay the premise for recognizing God and others who are directly or indirectly responsible for our accomplishments.
It is essential to understand that not everyone is going to live the same way. As a result, we perceive things and the happenings around us in a way, and thus, decide to behave accordingly. We encounter different circumstances each and every day, and all these have a different impact on each of our minds. The way we perceive a situation and react to it ultimately determines the quality of our lives. Many a time, the way we react to certain things and situations do not match the way another person reacts to the same thing.
So what does it mean to say “…think of yourself with sober judgment (Rom. 12:3b). Perspective, the way you see things, will determine the kind of life you are going to have! Glass half full or half empty? It is essential to take our decisions wisely. We must make sure that our thoughts are clear, and thus, make decisions accordingly. When we think soberly, and take note of each and every action, we spend our lives in the correct perspective.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8)
When I was in High School, the varsity Track coach gave each of us a copy of this poem. I still have my original copy somewhere. It addresses the topic of perspective toward life’s battles. Some places it is referred to as the “Winners Creed” or simply “The Winner.”
The Man Who Thinks He can
If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t
It’s almost a cinch that you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find
Success begins with a fellow’s will;
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you’re outclassed, you are.
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the one who thinks he can.