By Wayne Farris
Lead Pastor, Journey Foursquare Church / Lead Chaplain, Stevens County Fire Protection District 1 Wayne@JourneyFC.org
I’m always amazed that my smartphone’s screen time statistics are so high. Since this same smartphone is also used as a camera, bible, calendar, watch and alarm, email platform, and yes, sometimes a phone, perhaps I should not be surprised. And yet, I’m still shocked by the number of hours my eyes and ears are fixed on this device. And I’m equally taken aback by the number of apps on my smartphone and how many hours are spent using them and what that says about my daily fixations. I wonder what would happen if I had a similar app (tool) that analyzed my thoughts. What would it reveal about the things I spend my hours thinking about? How about you?
There is life-giving power in our thoughts. People say words matter – and they do. But perhaps our thoughts matter even more. An old Hebrew proverb states, “For as a person thinketh in their heart, so are they.” In other words, what you spend time thinking about and pondering in your heart is what you will become. I believe that is true. And that tells me that my thoughts matter, and they are powerful. Those things I think about become the seedbed for my words and actions. My words and my actions become my daily routines and habits. The sum of my daily routines and habits become my lifestyle. Hence, how I’m spending my life, the impact my life is making, the result of my life ‘lived out,’ is first birthed in my thoughts.
Herein lies my encouragement to you. Do you want to set your direction for 2022 and beyond? Would you rather be proactive about the course of your life or react to every socio-political shifting of the wind? Every speed bump or hurdle you encounter along your path? Here are a couple of tips:
1) Be intentional about what you allow yourself time to think about.
Author and leadership expert Craig Groeschel recently wrote, “Our life is always moving in the direction of our strongest thoughts,” (Winning the War in Your Mind, Zondervan Pub., 2021).
One suggestion is — Declutter your reading and listening material. Consider what you’re spending time watching, binging, swiping, and posting. If it’s not the right season for them, even good things can get in the way of great things we should be spending time on.
Here is a personal example: I believe it is our civic duty to be politically involved and informed. And I always want to ensure that my opinions are educated ones. Having said that, I’m also self-aware enough to know that I can get emotionally wrapped up in my views. I can get obstinate and allow my feelings to… well, let’s just say I don’t always like how I feel when I get wrapped around that axle. I don’t think that guy is the best version of me. So, I have decided that in 2022, for just this season, I’m going to stray away from overtly political podcasts and the like. Yes, I will stay informed, but the life I’m called to live this year doesn’t have room for me to be spending emotions and mental energies on things that get my spirit riled up in that manner. I’m not saying that should be true for you. I’m saying, I know me, and that is just one wise decluttering choice of the many I can make.
2) Be curious.
Did you know that you can literally be addicted to your own opinion? Several cognitive bias studies show that ‘Confirmation Bias’ is real. We desire to be correct, and we want to be understood. So, when we only listen to commentators, speakers, podcasters – or only read books, social media posts, or articles – affirming our own opinions and feelings, it feeds our innate need to be correct and understood and releases dopamine into our brains. And we all know that dopamine makes us feel great; it is the same chemical that can make certain drugs addictive. Thus, we can sense a subtle high and addiction to our own opinions. So, be curious about things you think you already know or people who may be different from you. I often study arguments and views that I disagree with, not because I plan to change my mind, but because I care about people. I may not agree with everyone, but even when I disagree, I want to better understand why they believe the way they do. What needs, fears, facts, or otherwise are steering their thinking and feeling opposite mine. In short, I try to stay curious.
In season 2 of the wildly popular AppleTV+ series, Ted Lasso, there is an English pub scene where Ted’s very American character is challenged to a high stakes match of darts, which they presumed he was no good at. Ted talks about being judged his whole life for various reasons and that people had consistently underestimated him. He recalls seeing a quote by Walt Whitman, “Be curious, not judgmental,” and how that quote helped him recognize that the people judging him always thought they had life and him figured out, but they were never curious enough to ask him questions. To drive his point home, he uses the example in a game of darts, stating, “Questions like, ‘Have you played a lot of darts, Ted?’ To which I would have answered, ‘Yes sir, every Sunday afternoon at a sports bar with my father from age ten until I was 16 when he passed away.’” Ted goes on to win the match.
In the Bible, the apostle Paul writes these words, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Paul knew our thoughts matter.
So, I encourage you, friends — be intentional, be curious, and direct your life in 2022 by directing your thoughts, because they have power!