I vividly remember and can still hear my father’s voice. He would say to my brothers and I, “you’ve got to learn to control your mind; you’ve got to control your thoughts.” As a child, I understood his charge to us. But as an adult, it resonates on a much different level.
You see, our mind controls our motives. If we aren’t careful by whom or what we allow it to be governed, we are certain to fall.
The Seat of Reason and Decision-Making
A study conducted in 2020 suggests that each person averages 6200 thoughts per day. Wow! That’s more than 4 thoughts per minute.
Thoughts change from one moment to the next depending on the circumstances and events occurring in each person’s life. Some thoughts may be less significant than others. Drifting from your outfit of the day to what you’re going to cook for dinner. And as insignificant as it may seem, thoughts about dinner decisions often feel more like a feat when feeding more than just myself. I’m just saying.
Another shift in your thoughts will have you mulling over a workout and then jumping to another thought on choosing the right paint color for the next home project. While these thoughts provoke necessary decisions, we probably view them as more trivial.
You figure that these are just normal day-to-day thoughts. Right? But what about all the other thoughts in between? Y’all know what I’m talking about.
Someone cuts you off while driving, and you have some choice words you would like to offer them. A coworker sends you an email that not only makes you look at your screen sideways but also has you ready to give them a piece of your mind. Maybe you mentally converse with them in your head for the next several minutes (or more) before giving them that professional clap back.
Both of these situations likely tend to stick in your head longer than you should permit.
And how about that friend, family member, or foe with whom you got into a disagreement? Afterward, you subconsciously replay the incident over and over again in your head. Your thoughts going a mile a minute about what you shoulda coulda woulda done and/or said. Your lips may even be silently mouthing those said shoulda coulda wouldas as it plays out in your mind.
Is it just me? Or are you nodding your head in agreement?
Satan’s Power Rests on Deception
In all seriousness though, how often has this happened to you? “Hi, my name is Ambre, and I am a repeat offender.” These are the instances when my father’s words, which insist that we learn to control our minds and thoughts, resonate the most.
But my earthly father isn’t the only one whose words ring loud and clear. Our heavenly father also commands us to take our every thought captive and make it obey Him (2 Corinthians 10:5).
When we lack the discipline to control our thoughts, we may as well unlock the gate to our mind and hand the keys over to satan. He loves uncontrolled thoughts and idle minds. He sees it as nothing but a big playground with endless possibilities to do what he does best. Lie to us. Deceive us. Kill, steal and destroy anything and everything. (John 10:10).
If we allow him, he will have our minds in such a negative space that moves us so far out of good character. Once he takes up residence, he is sure to have his way with us and create anything short of chaos.
So what do we do?
Power of the Pause
As I continue to walk with God and grow in my relationship with Him, I like to practice what I call “The Power of the Pause“. It’s nothing fancy, nor is it a magic trick. But it does help me when I am faced with conflict and adversity.
So here goes…
Pause (and Process)
The next time that irritating email hits your inbox or a text message comes through your phone that makes your fingers want to dance across your QWERTY keyboard to respond…PAUSE.
Take a step back. Put the phone down. Walk away. Whatever you must do, make sure you first pause.
When we pause, it aids in slowing down our trigger response. James 1:19 reminds us to be slow to speak and slow to anger. It also allows us time to process what we are feeling. This is often when our thoughts begin to swirl around in our heads. And this is the exact place where satan is roaming (1 Peter 5:8). I like how The Message Translation puts it; Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping.
In other words, get control and stay woke!
Now granted, we don’t always need to give others the benefit of the doubt for their words, actions, and behavior, but it also doesn’t mean that we need to serve them up the same plate that they are serving us. I know, sometimes this seemingly makes us feel better, but the instant gratification is temporary and possibly destructive.
After we have taken the time to pause and process, we Pray. This may be the single most important step in this sequence (at least in my opinion). Pray both for your enemy (Matthew 5:44) and pray that God guides you in your response to the adverse matter (Psalms 27:11). While every person that causes us grief or irritation isn’t necessarily our “enemy”, we should still take time to pray.
Lastly, we can Proceed. At this point, we have slowed down, grasped control of our thoughts, and through prayer, asked the Holy Spirit to guide us. You will know that the steps were successful if you can let go of the need to respond. And even if necessary to respond, you will be able to do so “gently” (Proverbs 15:1).
But if not, as with any remedy, repeat as needed.
Pause, Process, Pray and Proceed