In America the phrase ‘thought control’ is full of evil connotations. After all, man has the right to think what he wants to think. But how about the corollary that says everybody has a right to try to get you to think what they want you to think? The former statement is hailed as a great principle, when in fact it is a poor one: I prefer ‘every man has the right and duty to control his own thoughts’. The latter statement which upholds freedom of speech, while hailed as another great principle, comes in second best. Speech ought to be controlled; the right to influence ought to be controlled–for the good of everyone. Happily, our government of laws recognizes that mortals may turn such controls to suit their own ends, so in the ideal government it is hands off thoughts and intentions, i.e. in criminal law intention is only punishable when coupled with an act.|
God requires no such restraints, however, in His judgment of man. He judges us for our actions, but more importantly He can judge our thoughts. Christianity is a religion that requires good intentions, lofty thoughts, loving hearts and, above all, faith. These are the attributes of the mind. God recognizes that as a man thinks that’s what he is. He knows that appearances are not always what they seem. We know this and are oftentimes the only ones who know our evil thoughts, moments of weakness, doubt, fear and frustration. The man that smiles is not always necessarily happy. But often our faces are masks hiding thoughts we would never be suspected of having. Sometimes we get away with this masquerade, and thoughts may seem apart from reality. The fact is, they are the only things that are real. They are the most authentic part of you. What goes on in your head is you. With no thoughts we are nobody.
Because of evil thoughts, thought control is essential–to insure our sanity, prevent us from breaking the law, and foremost, to please God. We therefore need to know something about the seat of our thoughts before we can exercise control. Although heredity and environment influence us, common sense and conflict tell us we have free will. The mind can be divided into four sections: the conscious, subconscious, emotions (not thoughts), and will. In my consciousness are the thoughts I have as I choose the words I speak to you. In your conscious mind are the thoughts you have as you become aware of my words. The conscious, receiving station for the senses, picks up facts and appearances. It correlates information, makes judgments, then sends elsewhere in the mind for storage in the subconscious. If you doubt that you have a subconscious, think of the 12,000 or more words you know, or thousands of peoples’ names and faces who may be stored there. The conscious acts as your receiving station from at least two sources: the things we perceive and the thoughts we consciously retrieve from the subconscious, or which pop up unexpectedly.
Our feelings , the third part of the mind–not thoughts, but emotions, our passions–anger, fear, love, hate, greed, lust–act in conjunction with whatever thoughts we have, consciously or unconsciously, i.e., we may be unhappy but don’t know why. We know this about emotions: given free reign, baser selfish emotions overcome goodness. We know this from what God’s word says about us and from our own observation. Thoughts we have excite emotions and they are brought to bear on our decisions. Most important is the great power they wield. By our will we have the ability to decide not only what to do, but what we think–what thoughts to nurture, what thoughts to suppress.
All of the above, though perhaps an oversimplification, serves our purpose. It serves to make us realize that the conscious is a receiving station. The more evil we see, the more evil is stored in our subconscious, and the more often it will pop up in our minds, and more often than not we will have to do battle with our baser emotions. In this we often lose. So we need to always be aware and alert to the fact that our receiving stations are being bombarded with unwholesome data. Ad men want us to appease every appetite. Writers of fiction, movie and TV personalities often appeal to our worst emotions. ‘Anything goes’ becomes so easy to follow when our feelings–emotions–are involved. Our minds work like everyone else’s–if we don’t cut off the bombardment, we risk a failure of will. In a simple example of how correlation and judgment work: You reason something to be not particularly good–but Mary’s got one–I make more money than Mary–I could have one if I wanted it–I ought to have one.
How do we avoid this? We can’t avoid it all, but some of it we can. We often say we hate to think, but that’s what we must do: train ourselves to be thinkers. What I mean is exercise your will. Don’t let your mind just drift along; give your thinking direction. Stop sloppy thinking habits. Every time we fail to chase away an evil thought, our will is weakened. Strengthen your will by exercise. Go out and cut the grass, join a team, enter a race and not say ‘I won’t think about that’, but rather "I will think about this’, ‘I will do that’. After time, when crises come, your will won’t let you down.
Jesus wasn’t always thirty years old. Throughout his short life he was subject to many evil influences, as a boy of 10, adolescent of 15, young man of 20 and 25, but during all these days he was exercising his will–and so when he came to the cross he was able to overcome all fear, hate and anger.
The apostle Peter leaves us with support for developing this kind of mind–the mind of Christ. Peter said: Gird up the loins of your mind. In short, free your will from nonessentials. Don’t be encumbered with flowing robes. Don’t have just enough will to make yourself miserable with a guilty conscience. Develop the right attitude, one which will help you overcome evil with good.
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,
Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report,
if there be any virtue and if there be any praise,
think on these things. (Philippians 4. 8)