What are you? Who do you think you are? Has anyone ever asked you questions like these? Have you ever asked them of yourself?
We tend to define ourselves by our jobs, relationships, associations, beliefs, possessions, or status in society. Professionally speaking I’m a journalist, an author and editor. Relationally, I’m also a husband, father and grandfather. I’m a mentor to several men. I’m a fan of the Buckeyes. I’m a follower of Christ. Who I think I am can largely depend on what I’m doing at the time.
But recently a speaker challenged me on this type of personal assessment. He stated, “You are not what you think you are. What you think…you are.” Chew on that for a moment.
|Our "gray matter" greatly dictates|
who and what we think we are.
Consider the world we live in, which seems increasingly consumed by fear, distrust, animosity and discord. We wake up and get out of bed, anticipating a good day – then turn on the news and it’s downhill from there. Violence, political strife, wars and economic turmoil dominate the reports from around the world.
Unrest and protests have grown rampant among segments of society, at times tragically so, undoing decades of progress in race relations. This might be the greatest evidence for demonstrating that indeed, what we think…we are.
This is one reason the Bible puts such emphasis on what fills our minds. As Proverbs 23:7 declares, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” When we allow our thinking to be shaped without reservation by various external forces, we become what we think.
Paranoia is an extreme example, characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance. It’s a psychological dysfunction, no doubt, but persons with this condition act as they do based upon what they think. Similarly, if we harbor hatred, envy, hostility or greed, we manifest how we think.
Perhaps there’s a remedy to the current malaise that afflicts our society. Rather than allowing external factors to manipulate moods and beliefs, it might be a good step to realign our thought patterns. This doesn’t require a Pollyanna perspective about life, attempting to un-see reality. But just as a good photographer carefully and specifically focuses on subject matter he or she desires to capture, we also – by an act of the will – should redirect our mental focus.
The apostle Paul suggested a good starting point when he wrote to the ancient church at Philippi, apparently comprised of a lot of folks whose thinking had taken a bad turn. Paul exhorted them, “Finally, brothers, 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” (Philippians 4:8-9).
Our world is broken in a lot of ways. Anyone that’s not aware of this simply hasn’t been paying attention. But that need not dominate the way we think. We can choose to be part of the problem, moaning and groaning about all that’s wrong, wringing our hands in exasperation. Or we can choose instead to become part of the solution, starting with concentrating on what’s right and good and worthy of commendation, and then proceeding from there.Because: What you think…you are.