Tim Elmore in his book Generation Z Unfiltered, says Generation Z is the most anxious population in American history.
Does anything that Apostle Paul wrote and talked about feel more important to discipleship and successful life than Romans 12:1-3? Verse two in that paragraph keeps nudging at me:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind.”
As I recall my young-adult spiritual formation time, I don’t remember thinking the words “mental health,” or “self-care” when reading Romans 12:2b. I assumed “renewing your mind” was about Bible interpretation, spirit discernment, and “godly” behavior. Given the prognosis of the current earth population and my own self-questioning, I am wondering if Apostle Paul knew the concept of toxic thoughts.
What does “renewing of your mind” mean? Pastor Bill Johnson in his book, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind, (Destiny Image (©2014) says, “view reality from God’s perspective.” That’s the short version. Johnson adds,
“The renewed mind, then, reflects the reality of another world…. It’s not just that our thoughts are different, but that our way of thinking is transformed because we think from a different reality—from heaven to earth” (Page 35).
How are we to renew our minds? That’s not a rhetorical question. I sense Holy Spirit saying to me He wants me to renew my mind. I’m in! Cleansing my mind of toxic thoughts and patterns of thinking that lead to negative evaluation, self-doubt and rumination over every mistake, bad choice and immature mindset, personal inadequacy, and ignorance—just not knowing—since I was sucking my thumb, has to be part of the renewal.
I have two favorite brain specialists who I’m reading in pursuit of mind-renewal strategies. Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Caroline Leaf. I have added to their stack of books in recent days.
I listed three of Amen’s books in my last blog that are currently helpful to me. We have read Dr. Leaf’s material and used them in small group studies and conversations. Her book, Think, Learn, Succeed, (Baker Books, ©2018) is stimulating and resourceful as I “renew my mind.”
Dr. Leaf recommends we spend 16 minutes per day thinking about what we are thinking about. She says those minutes can be broken into 2-3 segments or one 16-minute span. (I don’t know how she came up with 16 minutes rather than 15 or 12.) John Maxwell and several U.S. Presidents have or had a specific chair in which they sat only to think. That chair was not to be used for anything else.
“An average human looks with seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance, and talks without thinking.” Leonardo da Vinci
We have instructions to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”… (2 Corinthians 10:5). What do you think—can you do it in 16 minutes? Romans
It would be to my benefit to do this conversation in a face-to-face group. I do not have a firm grip on everything Dr. Leaf is saying which means I’m not teaching; I am sharing what I’m reading that is useful in mind renewing. These are some of the things I’m grasping so far. I’ll quote from the book:
“It is so important to understand the creative power of our ability to choose. Mind-body research points to the fact that consciously controlling your thoughts is one of the best ways, if not the best way of detoxing your brain and body.” (Page 55)
That could make me nervous. Mind-control is not something a creative person wants. I found this process depends upon monitoring each thought and classifying it. I wrote on the top of my journal page: THOUGHT—-FEELING—-ACTION. I ask myself what thoughts are invading my mind that are making me feel guilt, shame, anger, wounded, hopeless? If the thought wasn’t causing me discomfort, anxiety, paralyzed, doomed, depressed or powerless, it would not be on this list. I call your attention to the four questions Bryon Katie suggests we apply to each nagging thought:
Is your thought true? (Will you really throw up? Pass out? Make a fool of yourself? Go crazy in front of everyone? Have an unprovoked attack?)
Can you absolutely know whether it is true?
How do you react, what happens when you believe it to be true?
Who would you be without that thought? (How does believing this thought change you and your activity?)
“…our thoughts can heal or harm the body….”
“The process of self-reflection is not only possible it is essential.” (Page 55)
“To control your thought life, you have to activate and continually make use of the quantum principle of superimposition, which is the ability to focus on incoming information and on upcoming memories from your unconscious mind. As you think about these thoughts, your need to analyze them in an objective way…before you choose which to believe and which to reject.”
“It is almost as if you are watching yourself, becoming aware of what you are thinking, feeling, and focusing on in as much detail as you can in this now moment.”
As “the thinker” is contemplating thoughts from an objective distance, it seems to me discernment is a good idea. To bring Holy Spirit in on this mental reconnaissance to help us sort out the source of the thought(s) is what paraclete implies. (Holy Spirit actively walks beside us. Let us not forget that we also have an enemy who is an accuser and deceiver. Well-placed suggestions is how he does that. Our own mental distortion can misinterpret incoming thoughts as can be unresolved angers or hurts. To allow any of those to remain unchallenged and not reframed does not lead to a renewed mind. Thoughts may come through the filter of our misinterpretations or unhealed wounds or expressions of self-dislike. Maybe a curse intended to disrupt, confuse or harm.
Ask yourelf, Why is this thought in your mind at this moment? Will it benefit you? Talk to the non-acceptable thought aloud—it is not quite enough to tell it to get lost, that assaulting thought needs to be reconceptualized or reframed.
“In this objective state, you are capturing and reconceptualizing toxic and chaotic thoughts and building healthy, organized thoughts.” (Page 57)
“…if you do not capture thoughts and monitor incoming information, it is hard to change toxic and chaotic thoughts, which will steal your mental peace and your ability to build useful memory and learning. As humans, we are designed to engage with information; we are designed to build our brains.” (Page 57)
Assuming that Romans 12:2 is talking as much about mental health as it is doctrinal correctness, what do you look like with a renewed mind? “The pattern of this world” is anything that is different than the plan, character and will of God in any sphere of life and any dimension of your life that contradicts biblical evidence of how The Father sees and loves His children.
There is no gauge that says, “Fully charged,” or “Totally renewed,” so you may not know except if your stomach no longer hurts, or anxiety/depression is not bending your face to the ground or if what you’ve been called to accomplish is starting to move forward and you can think clearly about strategies. Those could be clues as to a renewing mind. Add another clue: if your anticipations and expectations are more positive.
What do you think?
©2022 D. Dean Benton
One in a series about renewing minds for healing of anxiety, depression, burnout.