How to stop that stinkin' thinkin'
Now let's keep in mind that I am not trained or educated in physcology or cognitive behavioral therapy whatsoever. I am a recovering middle school teacher (band director) and I self diagnosed work-a-holic who has a history of placing a little too much value on the approval of others and achievements and accomplishments than probably necessary. I first heard the phrase stinkin thinkin while listening to a talk by the motivational speaker and sales legend, Zig Ziglar. When I heard him address an audience member who had asked for his help as having stinkin thinkin, I wondered if that could be me? I wondered if I was going through a season of having the stinkin thinkin. As optimistic as I often project to be on my social media or when speaking with others, I often have felt quite different on the inside. Most often I return to symptoms of self doubt, the sky is falling and "oops I did it again..." type mental patterns. Can anyone relate?
I would like to share a technique that I have found to be very helpful to redirect and reset those stinking thinkin patterns and help nudge my mind back to a path that has a more positive outlook on the day, week or month. When I've gotten in a negative rut, I will often use return to a short Proverb which is literally from the book of Proverbs from the Bible. Proverbs, chapter 3 verses 5 and 6. Now for those how may not be of the Christian faith or may not have a Bible handy, don't tune me out just yet. There are lots of reasons to refer to the Bible for a source of encouagement and reflection. So, if you will just hear me out on this one. I promise it will help you too. Here's that short proverb.
Trust in the Lord with all you heart;
Do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
And he will show you which path to take.
- Proverbs 3:5-6
I've often repeated this proverb to myself as I find my mind returning to doubt, worry and convert about almost anything / everything. I will use this short provern whenever I return to that old stinkin' thinkin. Let's dig in a little bit more about the Proverb and why I have kept this one close to me for so many years.
The first line, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart."
I love how simple and yet challenging this is. I usually remind myself that I am being called to Trust in the Lord and not to trust in Charlie, or to trust in my spouse, or to trust in my manager at work, etc. If surely doesn't suggest that we trust in our political party or the most recent trends on tik-tok or social media. The second half of that short line is probably even more challenging than the first..."with all your heart". It calls for a full turning over of your own perspective or view of what you were desiring for a particular situation. Trust in the Lord, not the doctors. Trust in the Lord, not the government. That's certianly easier said that done, at least for me.
The second line, I absolutely love which says, "do not depend on your own understanding." This is so freeing to read and as I repeat this to myself this is a great reminder that I am proably not the first person to walk the Earth to have suffered from the stinkin' thinkin'. This short statement reminds me that my understanding and my view probably shouldn't be trusted or at best it wont be very dependable. Think about when someone warns you not to lean on something or to sit on a chair. That's probably because they know something that you don't. Their warning is to keep you from having something fall on you. Or think about what happens if you lean on a wall that was freshly painted but didn't have a sign to let you know that it had wet paint. You ruin your clothes and you also mess up the work that the paitner did when he/she applied the fresh coat of paint to the wall. The painter now has to come back and touch up where you leaned against the wall and you have to go and wash your clothes. More work for everyone, right? No fun.
The third line says "seek his will in all that you do". This is another tough one to grasp and genuinely apply to my life. Seeking His will requires that I am listening for God's will or plan for my life. I believe that this strongly applies to the commitments that I make on my calendar or what I say "yes" to (my schedule). One of the main areas that I am working to grow is when it comes to saying "yes" to things that go on my calendar. So for me, I generally re-work this statement to say, seek his will in all you put on you calendar. Before I say "yes" to this amazing and exciting opportunity, I need to ask and reflect on "what is His will for my life as it relates to this commitment" and "how does this commitment blend and interact with the other commitments that I have already made for today or for this week?"
And finally, the part that we could all just want to the Lord to skip ahead too... the bottom line, right. And he will show you which path to take. Lord, please show me which path to take. Lord, please make my paths straight. Certianly there is a reason that this is the 4th line. I consider this whole passage to be somewhat of an "if / then" statement or a little bit like a line of code on how to unlock the mystery of knowing which path or route to take in life. An if /then statement is another example of a cause and effect relationship. The IF part of the statement is If you will trust in the Lord with all of your heart, he will set your paths straight. And IF you can shift your mind to focus on what scriptures and the Lord desires for you and not your own understanding, then he will show you with path to take. And IF you will seek his will and reflect before making commitments on your calendar, he will direct your steps.
In a short summary, as I close this first blog. First, trust in the Lord (not yourself); then depend on him (not yourself); then seek his will before you obligate yourself to a commitment and He will show you which path to take and He will help you reset and tame that Stinkin Thinkin. And a disclaimer or word or experience is that the path you chose won't be perfect, or flawless. And it's likely that you'll have to continually come back to this proberb more than a few times before it sticks and then you'll have to come back again. Why? Because you're conditioned to do the exact opposite of this Proverb. We are conditioned to trust in ourselves, to lean on our own understanding and we often seek our way over anyone else's way.
I hope this short blob post was helpful to you today and that this verse can help you become more intune with God's voice and help you overcome that stinkin thinkin.
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