If thoughts are good, it’s wonderful. Thoughts about the effervescent giggle of a child who found a lost lovey or the way the sunlight made you glow as you basked in it’s warmth bring comfort and encouragement.
But when those thoughts damage trust and hope, they’re like knives filleting hearts.
We cannot comprehend the power behind our thoughts until we put them into words, and we see the effect they have on us and those around us.
The smile that radiates from someone when they receive affirming words, fills our hearts as well.
And the ache that leaks out of the eyes of someone who has had words stabbed into their heart feels like shards of glass to our hearts as well.
To control our speech, we become stingy with our words, doling them out here and there, raising the bar of exception higher and higher until we’re impossible to please.
Or we become self-protectant, doubting the goodness of someone’s words or validating our self-protection when hurtful words come our way.
Not giving life to the ugly by being quiet is one step towards using our words for good. But even if we are still thinking them, there will come a time when the pressure of life causes those words to spillover. And what a mess.
In the first week of college, I made a mess with my fellow college students. Let’s just say first impressions are vital and recovering from a bad first impression is nearly impossible. It takes heroic effort and deliberate repeated actions to prove that the bad first impression was the wrong first impression.
I made a terrible first impression. Embarrassingly so. A young man threw his fork, which had just been in his mouth, across the table and into my cottage cheese and yogurt. I delivered a sharp and stinging lecture on germs and cleanliness. In the process, I indicated that the person who threw the fork was just as disgusting as the germs in their mouth and I shamed them.
I shamed myself by my words.
Those words welled up like a volcano and I couldn’t stop them like I had in the past. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” was my mantra growing up. But it failed me in this instance.
The combination of moving to a new town, adjusting to a new school, and dealing with shattering the illegal haircutting business of the Dorm Mother created pressure that built into the “Don’t Throw the Fork That’s Just Been in Your Mouth into My Food” scathing speech. I cringe at the memory.
I learn from it too. I understand that preventing thoughts from turning into words isn’t effective. It’s pretty much exhausting and induces a “try, fail, beat oneself up” cycle. That cycle does not lead to lasting, heartfelt, transformation that believers in Christ exhibit as a new creation.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
One of the steps of breaking negative cycles is capturing our thoughts. The next step is making our thoughts obedient to Christ.
Awareness of our thoughts leads to capturing our thoughts.
Then we bring them into obedience to Christ.
How? By flipping the script.
Flipping the script involves taking the negative thoughts and looking at it upside down.
God’s wisdom is not the world’s wisdom. God’s wisdom doesn’t turn to the latest “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” philosophy or turn to blaming other’s for your problems. God’s wisdom is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)
I rail against the injustice about the lack of healing in my friend’s body and I shake my clenched fist at the heavens. I tell God exactly what I feel, all the hurt and the anger, and then I declare to myself that God has been my hope and my confidence since my youth (Psalm 71:5).
At times I struggle in relationships and find my mind filled with imaginary conversations putting so-and-so in their place, I am completely honest with God with my frustrations and disappointments. But then I flip the script and remind myself that God is sovereign, and his ways are higher than mine.
When I feel surrounded by darkness and cannot find my way, I hurl my confusion at God and he hears me because he doesn’t turn me away. But then I turn that thought around by reminding myself that God’s light and truth will guide me. (Psalm 43:3)
Flipping the script takes guarding our mouth to a whole new level because we’re renewing our thoughts by making them obedient to Christ. Rather than being held hostage to a cycle of “try, fail, beat oneself up,” we’re set free because our thoughts are filled with the truths found in God’s word.
Know his word. Capture thoughts and flip the script.
Be aware of your thoughts. Tune in.
Capture your thoughts. Even the slippery ones.
Make them obedient. Flip the script.