Monday, January 20, 2014
Pastorgraphs: “As a Man Thinketh”
January 20, 2014
[Pastorgraphs now online at ChristSD.com]
Pastorgraphs: “As a Man Thinketh”
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”
In 1902, James Allen, a British inspirational author and poet, published an essay entitled “As a Man Thinketh”, loosely based upon Proverbs 23:7. Of course, references to “a man” and “he” applies to both men and women, boys and girls. The inspirational essay concludes you are who and what you think.
That is profound. If it is true, then your thoughts (your beliefs, or “ethics”) are critical to your success, happiness and well-being. I agree. In my book on Integrity, I suggest that “ethics” are the sum total of what we think, including beliefs, values, principles and ideals. Ethics reside in your mind, and shape who you are and what you do. So what goes on “between your ears” is critical for your spiritual, mental and physical well-being.
Thinking is hard work. That is why many never stop to examine what they believe and why they believe it. Someone said 5% of the people do 95% of the thinking. If true, it means that 95% are perfectly content to let others tell them what to think! For instance, it is much easier to accept the doctrine and dogma of a church than to do the hard work of reasoning it took theologians centuries to establish. Or, it is much easier to accept the platform of a political party (if you read it at all) than to wrestle with the social, economic and political issues that defies quick and easy answers. Dr. Stephen L. Carter of Yale University, in his book Integrity wrote: “I suspect that few of us really know just what we believe − what we value − and, often, we do not really want to know. Discernment is hard work; it takes time and emotional energy. And it is so much easier to follow the crowd.”
So, what you think matters. As Allen put it, “Thought and character are one.” Your beliefs are your life roadmap, the way you perceive everything in life. Borrowing from both Proverbs and Allen’s essay, I would like to share:
Seven Reasons Your Thoughts are Important
1. You are what you think. Allen wrote, "A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts." That is precisely what Proverbs says. It is empowering and liberating to know “A person is limited only by the thoughts that he chooses.”
2. You do what you think. Allen said, “The body is the servant of the mind. It obeys the operations of the mind, whether they be deliberately chosen or automatically expressed.” Good thoughts produce good results; bad thoughts produce bad results.
3. You become what you think. This means if you want to change your lives for the better, it all starts with believing in a better life. Mahatma Gandhi once said people “often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I did not have it in the beginning.” Allen said it this way: “As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.”
4. You attract what you think. The old adage says birds of a feather flock together. Allen wrote, “Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are…The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and also that which it fears”.
5. You control what you think. Allen wrote, “A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances.” He added, “They who have no central purpose in their life fall an easy prey to petty worries, fears, troubles, and self-pitying, all of which are indications of weakness, which lead, just as surely as deliberately planned sins (though by a different route), to failure, unhappiness, and loss, for weakness cannot persist in a power evolving universe. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, ‘Peace, be still!’”
6. You must work at what you think. Thinking, reasoning and believing is not easy. Allen wrote, “A man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind…He who would accomplish little need sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much. He who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.”
7. You get what you think. “Not what he wishes and prays for does a man get, but what he justly earns. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions.” Allen concluded, “A noble and God-like character is not a thing of favor or chance, but is the natural result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of long-cherished association with God-like thoughts.”
James Allen concluded, “Let a man radically alter his thoughts, and he will be astonished at the rapid transformation it will effect in the material conditions of his life.”
Of course, it is possible to believe something that simply is not true. John Wesley offered some tools to test beliefs, often referred to as “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral”.
Do your beliefs meet the test of:
· Reason – does the belief make sense?
· Experience – does the belief coincide with other experiences?
· Authority – does the belief coincide with authority (the Bible, God’s love?)
· Consistency – is the belief consistent with other beliefs and actions?
It was a high school teacher who challenged me to think for myself. She warned that doing so was hard work and might cost me popularity. Thinking for yourself requires courage if you conclude the moral majority is neither moral nor a majority. Any old dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a strong salmon to fight upstream against the current to fulfil its life’s purpose.
So where do you start? With God! Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” And Proverbs 9:10 adds, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” Only then will you become what you think, believe and know in your heart, soul and mind God intended you to be and to do in this life.
Devotedly yours, Bill Jenkins
From the Quote Garden:
“Mind is the Master power that molds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills: —
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.”
~ James Allen, 1902 ~
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