June 23, 2021
Thought Life: Part 1
A few months ago, I found an unsigned note under the windshield wiper of my Jeep that read:
“You parking here just shows you are lazy, entitled, arrogant, and don’t respect others. Or all of the above. Park in a parking space, please.”
I was parked at the club where I coach swimming and work out. Granted, I was parked creatively, but I wasn’t in a fire lane, handicapped spot, or even in the front row. It was legal, and I have been parking there for years. The irony is that I started parking there so I wouldn’t take a regular space on busy days which would help members and guests have an easier time finding a spot. I thought it was an act of service. But evidently, by parking there, someone thought I was lazy, entitled, arrogant and disrespectful. That’s a lot to assume based on a parking spot.
At first I thought a friend placed that note under my wiper as a joke. I asked around and no one had. My friend who worked the front desk was intrigued and found the security camera footage of a man I didn’t recognize placing the note on my windshield.
I’m not going to lie, that note tripped me up for a while. I laid in bed thinking about it that night. I wanted to defend my parking, confront this man and ask him what was so wrong in his life that he felt obliged to write such a confrontational note and then leave it unsigned. I felt wrongly accused by him and I regrettably spent more time thinking about it than I should. It brought to mind all kinds of crazy thoughts. I even started fantasizing about what I would say if I had the chance to talk to him. I played out multiple imaginary conversations in my mind where I humiliated this poor man with my rich rhetoric and poised delivery. I labeled him a coward. Who was he to criticize my parking?!? I didn’t sleep great that night.
I know this is obvious, but what we choose to think about has incredible influence and power over how we feel and act at any given moment. Our thoughts can lift us up or they can eat away at our mental health with tortuous results.
I gleaned some great principles about taking control of my thoughts in a book called The 4:8 Principle by Tommy Newberry. If you find yourself getting tripped up by negative thoughts, obsessive thoughts, or unhealthy thoughts, this book might help.
The 4:8 principle is based on Philippians 4:8.
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.
Some thoughts—things described in this verse, should be thought about! They should be on our mind all the time. But so often we dwell on things that bring us down and rob us of joy. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at torturing myself with unhealthy and negative thoughts that tend to spiral and suck the life out of me. Maybe you do too. The crazy thing is, I forget that I have control over what I choose to think about. I have that power and so do you.
Over the next few weeks, I want to look at the art and necessity of taking control of our thought life and owning what thoughts we choose to dwell on and what we choose to drop. I’ve found that dwelling on the positive thoughts as described in Philippians 4:8 give me life, energy, and a light heart. But this also means that I must have the discipline to drop unhealthy thoughts, quickly sweeping them away before they take root and eat away at my joy or cloud my thinking.
That note left on my Jeep is a simple example, I know. But it created a perfect opportunity to practice the mental discipline of dropping the negative thoughts it generated. Those thoughts were a far cry from the virtuous thoughts described in Philippians 4:8.
More next week.