In the National Football League, when a team is able to move the ball inside their opponent’s 20-yard line, that is called the RED ZONE.
What happens in that ZONE, usually determines who wins or loses the game.
The RED ZONE OF LIFE is what happens between our ears. And just like on the football field, whether we WIN or LOSE depends on the offensive or defensive plays that are called and how well we execute them.
The ‘plays’ are WHAT WE THINK and HOW WE THINK. And, how well we execute these ‘plays’ depends wholly on WHAT WE BELIEVE and IN WHOM WE BELIEVE.
WHAT YOU THINK
There are three categories of thoughts: Positive, negative, and neutral.
We think we know the difference. So often, we do not.
For example, “I have to get the oil changed in my car today”.
Thinking to remind yourself to do something you need to do would seem to be a positive thought. No, it isn’t. It is a ‘list thought’ which hangs over you until you have completed it. It tends to generate a negative ‘feeling’.
On the other hand were you to think, “I get to have the oil changed in my car today”, that is a case of turning a potentially negative thought into a positive or grateful thought. You remind yourself of how fortunate you are to have a car and that you have the money and the time to accomplish that task. It tends to generate a positive feeling.
Thoughts are tricky little devils. Sometimes you can feel you are giving life to a positive thought when in fact, if you are not careful, it has the potential to turn negative on you. (BTW, the secret to this is the “GRATITUDE ZONE.”)
You see an old friend you have not seen in several years and you say to her, “Wow, you look terrific!” Positive thought, right? Well, possibly. But, if you then think, “how does she do it? I wish I looked that good.”
Thoughts generate feelings which in turn generate other thoughts which generate other feelings which generate other thoughts and off we go. So, from the get-go, thoughts matter.
What is a neutral thought? Some will say there is no such thing as a neutral thought. In one sense, this may be correct. It is hard to say that there is anything to be gained by arguing the point.
BTW, the prior sentence is a good example of a neutral thought.
When we enter this world, we arrive with three fundamental needs; three physical needs and three psychological needs. They are innate needs. We are born with them and until after puberty and into our early adult years, we really have no conscious awareness of our need for them.
The physical needs are food, air, and water.
The psychological needs are security and survival, affection and esteem, and power and control.
In his seminal book on the human predicament, INVITATION TO LOVE, author Thomas Keating refers to these three needs as ‘programs for happiness’.
As we mature into adulthood, to have power and control over every aspect of our lives (i.e.the need to be our own God) takes on greater and greater significance. And for many, success is measured by how successful we are in achieving this. In fact, there is data that supports the belief that of the three basic motivations, sex, money, and power, the quest for power is the strongest.
In sum, everything we do begins with a thought. We can’t always control the thoughts that come into our minds. What we can control, however, is how we deal with those thoughts.
In this regard, this writer finds it particularly interesting, even ironic, that of everything and everyone over which we seek to have power and control, the only thing over which we DO have total control, and yet exercise the least discipline over...IS our thoughts.
Every thought we have is influenced by something...what we read, what we see, our past, our daily experiences, our plans for the future, etc, etc., etc. It is in this area of our lives that we can begin to exercise some degree of control over our thoughts.
We begin making choices that turn into habits, which result in actions that begin influencing our thoughts which in turn reinforce those habits and all of a sudden we begin to realize that yes, we do have the ability to control our thoughts.
This must be possible because God tells us it is. He never gives us a command that is impossible for us to obey and which He is not ready, willing, and able to assist us in obeying. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians we have these words:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phillippians 4:8,9)
HOW YOU THINK
If we go back to the RED ZONE metaphor, whether a team scores or keeps the opposing team from scoring depends on how well they execute the play that is sent in.
That same principle applies to our thoughts. Yes, what we think matters. But HOW WE THINK is equally important.
Do we think carefully, compassionately, rationally, purposefully, hopefully, prayerfully, and with grace towards others? Or are we judgemental, and critical of others?
Are we futuristic thinkers? Do we try to keep things in perspective? Do we think pre-emptively, i.e. do we plan for eventualities?
Or, do we think negatively, i.e. that no matter what we do, it will never turn out to our good, but to our harm?
What to do?
Examine your thoughts. It will amaze you. If you are willing to be ruthlessly honest, you will begin to see how your thoughts shape you and how you view the world and your place in it.
WHAT & IN WHOM YOU BELIEVE
What we believe is influenced by an almost limitless number of factors; our past, what we have learned, what we have experienced, what others have told us, etc. etc.
We believe what IS...what we can see, feel, touch, smell and hear. (One of my favorite books is LOVING WHAT IS, by Byron Katie.)
We believe IN things...in people, institutions, and forms of government, etc.
Why then is ‘what we believe’ and ‘in whom we believe’ so important?
Because we don’t ACT on something we don’t believe. (Our actions are a reflection of our priorities.) What we believe is the basis of all of our actions, our behaviors, what we do and refuse to do.
Sadly, because few people have ever undertaken to write down what they believe, consequently, they only have little awareness and a very shallow understanding of what they actually do believe.
Even more important than ‘WHAT YOU BELIEVE’, is ‘IN WHOM’ you believe.
In today’s world, we are told we need to believe in ourselves. You may have heard the saying: ‘Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you’re right!’
There is another saying that is equally true. ‘If you don’t believe in yourself, neither will anyone else.’
So yes, it is important that we believe in ourselves. But NOT, in ourselves alone. And why is that?
Because we don’t tend to confide in or trust someone we don’t know. We think we know ourselves. We don’t. We deceive ourselves all the time.
There IS someone, however, who knows us better than we know ourselves. He is our Creator. And He is continually inviting us to get to know Him, so we can trust Him and BELIEVE...IN...HIM.
There are many, many passages in the Holy Scriptures that help us to know God and to trust Him to the point that we can truly believe in Him.
Below is one such passage from Eugene Peterson’s translation of the original text that if offered here with the hope that it will touch your heart.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover
your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay
anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company
with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I challenge you. Begin examining your thoughts...what you think, and how you think. Write down your findings.
Then, examine what you believe and in whom you believe and why. Write down your findings.
It is a process that will change your life.
OH! REALLY? Yes, it will.