Wouldn’t it be great if cleaning out our mind was as easy as cleaning out our closet?
Negative thoughts? Toss ‘em!
Feelings of judgment or hate? See ya!
Resentment? You’re outta here!
While it might not be as easy as throwing a blouse into a donation box, we can decide whether we are going to wear that thought, keep it hanging in the closet for another year or get rid of it.
Ask yourself- what thoughts do I have that lead me to experience negative emotions?
Loving someone who struggles with addiction can be very traumatic, and the bad thoughts associated with this trauma may not go away on their own. In fact, I bet they won’t! We have to take responsibility for these thoughts. The same way that we can’t heal our addicted loved ones, nothing our loved one says or does is going to heal a negative thought pattern in us.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
-2 Corinthians 10: (NIV)
To “take captive” means to take control. This type of control begins with self-awareness. Someone that lacks self-awareness is blind to their own imperfections but oversensitive to the shortcomings of others. Until we escape this victim mentality, the blaming of others and the excuses we make for ourselves will prevent us from growing spiritually. To become more self-aware, we need to take inventory of our thoughts and emotions. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it requires us to be completely honest with ourselves.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
-Romans 12:3 (NIV)
What kind of bad thoughts do you have? Do you worry obsessively about things that haven’t even happened yet? Do you always think of the worst case scenario? Are you hanging onto guilt or shame from something you did in the past? The problem with this thought pattern is that it doesn’t just stop with a bad thought, it turns into a bad feeling that can influence our actions.
Do I allow my thoughts or emotions to justify my own bad behavior?
Emotions are sneaky. One minute, we’re totally convinced we feel a certain way, but after a little time has passed, we may feel completely different. When we act on emotions, we’re basing our behavior on something that is constantly changing. It’s a very shaky foundation to base our actions on, especially when our actions are the visible representation of our hearts.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
-Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Let me tell you a little story… one time (and it was only once, I swear!), in-between my husband’s two stints in rehab, we had a fight. This wasn’t an ordinary fight. He was out of his mind, and apparently, I was too. I took a hammer to his truck. I went Carrie Underwood on it. (GASP!!!!!! I KNOW!!!) There is so much more to this story, but out of respect for my hubs, I’m just going to say that if you knew all the details, you’d totally have my back! [Leah here- I got your back! I have done some crazy things, too!!!]
Did he deserve it? Sure.
Was my behavior justified? The world and your besties will probably say it was totally reasonable behavior considering the circumstances, but God wasn’t thrilled. In fact, it probably made Him sad because He knew that behind the anger was pain, sadness and fear. I had completely lost control, and my actions and thoughts were a reflection of what was going on inside my messy, broken heart.
How do we eliminate negativity when we are surrounded by it?
We change our perspective. I know this sounds like one of those responses that sound great but are completely unrealistic, but its not. If we approach the situation and people with love, we can influence the results for everyone involved and lead others to Christ by our example. It’s not easy. Sometimes people behave horribly and cause devastating emotional anguish, so naturally, you want to punch them in the throat. Jesus isn’t a fan of the throat punch, but sometimes showing love to those who treat you badly is the exact kind of “proverbial throat punch” they need.
“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.”
-Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Do my reactions to these thoughts please God?
We aren’t going to be emotionally “okay” in every situation. This applies to everyone, regardless of whether or not your loved one struggles with addiction. What we WILL have in every situation is our own responsibility and consequences for the actions we choose to take. We are only responsible for our own actions, regardless of who’s at fault. When in doubt, wait and pray. Controlling our emotions takes practice and intention. It won’t happen overnight, but in the meantime, God knows our hearts and He loves that we’re trying.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
-Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)
When we make mistakes, we need to own them, apologize and try to make a change. Having grace for our own mistakes will help to clean out our emotional clutter (otherwise known as guilt, anger and shame!) but grace is not saying, “Well, that’s just the way I am!” We aren’t perfect and never will be- we are constantly evolving, hopefully through spiritual growth and maturity.
If we don’t try to change, we aren’t really sorry. The choices we make can become a part of who we are, affecting our future. It is up to us to see God’s grace for ourselves.
So clean out your mind. Wash those thoughts and reorganize your emotions. Get rid of anything that could be cluttering your heart, and most importantly, put down the hammer.