May 29, 2012

Guarding A Heart: To Practice Good Thoughts and Have Control of Our Mind

Proverbs 4:23
Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life.

Some people think it's okay to hate a person as long as we don't physically/literally do anything to harm them. But Jesus tells us to take another mile: Don't even think of hating a person. The world teaches us that hating people is bad because it's toxic to our mind. Jesus, however, says that we shouldn't stop hating people only for the sake of our emotional health. We should stop it because God loves people.

If God has so wonderfully made and created that person, and we love God so much, how can we stand hating a human being whom He loves deeply?

When we dislike someone, it's very easy for the devil to put negative thoughts about that person in our head. The devil is like a roaring lion. He will use every chance available to bring us down spiritually, by all means. He can trick our mind into believing his deceptions and “white” lies. He will let us think that as long as we don't slap people on their face, it's okay.

Jesus says, anyone who even think of killing a brother is guilty of murder. Do you find this hard? Very much, indeed. It's not just about the literal action anymore - it's about the war of the mind. It's about how we can cut the chain of evil thoughts that causes us to sin - the sin of murder. It's about not seeing a person's worth based on their annoying half-assed behaviour.

It's about seeing a person's identity as God's beloved creation, who very much deserves our love and respectIt's about compassion and gentleness to them who've wronged us. It's about honoring individual differences and hence, their life choices. It's about humility that comes from an understanding of God's grace that has saved us from the world.

And most importantly, it's about self-discipline. It takes great amount of practice to habitually reject those harmful thoughts away. It takes persistence, consistency, and sweat to guard our heart against the devil. Just like how every believer practices the protection-against-lust exercises, having a positive mindset is not an easy thing. The key is to stop entertaining the thoughts when they come. Learn to have a full control of our mind. Learn to navigate our attention into something constructive, not destructive.

Good thoughts require practice, practice, practice, and practice.

In a practical setting, let's say someone annoys you for coming an hour late to a set meeting. This person has done this several times before and you're ticked by his behavior. What would you do?

Me, I’ll do this.

1. Pray
To God, of course. I’ll ask Him to shower me with patience, understanding, humility, compassion, wisdom, gentleness, forgiveness and mercy, as well as the strength to guard my heart and bounce back any unnecessary thought.

2. Shut my mouth
Silence is much better compared to sinning in my anger. Just shut up. Period. This is my particular weakness, so I find myself improving a lot by doing this.

3. Think rationally
Is the person’s behavior consistent with his/her personality? Is there any recent situational change that may affect his action? Is there anything I can do to help the meeting starts on time? I think it’s much better to find a solution to a problem rather than dwelling in the whys and why-nots. If I can’t find any suggestion to help that person comes on time, next time I’ll just bring an iPad along or count sheeps in my head.

The rule of thumb: Think positive unless proven otherwise. There are numerous examples of self-development or leadership books that put emphasis on the belief of "putting people higher and better than where they currently are to actually have them rise higher and perform better." If it works, then why not? 

All in all, guarding our heart doesn't mean blindly closing our eyes to bad attitudes. It means learning their failings through a lens of understanding, compassion, humility, etc mentioned above. It means seeing the truth about people as it is, and still loving them for who they are.

Ask God for the strength to keep your heart pure and more wisdom to understand people. Never be swept away by momentary rush of emotions and don’t get angry easily. Just try to understand people, and don’t over-exaggerate weird thoughts without proper evidence.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Guard your heart, keep it clean and pure, and have a long, anxiety-free peaceful happy life!

God bless youuu :D