I did something really stupid today. I paid too much attention to what other people might think of what I wanted to do. Because of this I curtailed my actions to what I supposed was expected of me and I changed plans. Truly, my plan–my wish–never had a chance. It was sabotaged from the beginning due to my inbred inclination to serve others perception of me. What a mistake! I could have enjoyed myself so much if I hadn’t allowed my idol of human opinion to derail my desire.
The thing that you have to know is that what I wanted to do was good. In fact, in regard to general morality, it was neutral. I wasn’t afraid to do it because it was bad or because it would prove to be beneficial to me in only a weak degree, but because I lacked the courage to back up my decision if someone should call it into question. But even worse, to me, was the prospect of silent evaluations being made of me which I could not contest because they would never be openly voiced.
Now, to some of you, these fears I’m sharing with you may sound outlandish, or at the very least, strongly self-centered. While others of you will know exactly the grounds on which I base these bits of thought-clutter. But, regardless of what you might think, I tell you these things because I want help and I know that help doesn’t meander in the dark where I’ve been hiding. I know that my thoughts are wrong and I want to confess that this is so. I want the chance to relearn other thoughts that will take their place. And, if you find yourself in a similar place, I want you, also, to leave the haunts of broken thinking in pursuit of a pure mind.
Can a pure mind fix itself on what it cannot be sure is true? I never thought of this as a point of application for Philippians 4:8, but maybe I just never looked at the words closely enough; that is, I never saw my heart and mind set as the backdrop to them.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure…think about these things.”
Choosing to make the thoughts of others–what they think of me–the forefront of my thinking earlier was disastrous for many reasons. Most of them can be summed up with the fact that they made it impossible for me to be obedient to this verse. In fact, that preoccupation forced me to cast far from me the counsel God gives me through it.
Consider this with me:
- If I am anticipating others’ judgments of me, I am judging others; not on their behavior–which displays some level of truth about them–but based on what I am willing to be believe them capable of in terms of sin against me. By so doing, I am living outside the limits of the truth. I am, essentially, choosing to believe a lie (an unproven truth) about others even while I am afraid that they will believe lies about me. I am not constraining my thoughts to whatever is true.
- If I am focusing my thoughts on the worst possible things that another person or a group of people could do to me (in the form of thoughts or actions) I surely cannot call my thoughts honorable. I try to maintain my honor by stripping others of theirs. I do it in advance so as to eliminate as much risk of humiliation as possible. This thinking actually dishonors me as it reveals an anxiety-ridden mind that does not honor God with trust. I cannot fix my mind on whatever is honorable while at the same time ruminating over all that is potentially dishonorable. There is only so much room in my brain. God designed it to hold nothing more than whatever is honorable.
- If I am wrapped up in imagining whatever impure thoughts people could possibly have of me, I will find it impossible to cultivate a pure thought-life. For one thing, I am not thinking pure thoughts of others. For another, I am not removing from my mind the garbage of doubt, distrust and ambiguity. I am letting confusion fester in my brain and lead me to places I don’t want to go. As I work to appear pure, my prideful motives work against real purity being cultivated within me. I chose a counterfeit purity that does not obey God’s instruction to feast my mind on whatever is pure.
Come, friend, let’s get up and begin to exercise the kind of thinking that is true, honorable and pure. And, if we look stupid while we’re doing it, at least it won’t be because we made ourselves victims of god-less thinking!