I sensed something was wrong.
Let me rephrase that. I smelled something wrong. Very wrong, if you know what I mean.
I was fairly certain the odor came from somewhere in my youngest daughter’s room. A quick look, though, seemed to indicated everything in her bedroom was fine. Her bed was made (miracle!), her clothes weren’t strewn on the floor (bigger miracle!). Nothing seemed particularly off.
So I moved on to other rooms, but found nothing out of the ordinary there, either. Sighing, I made my way back to Ashton’s bedroom; the smell was strongest there, so I began to dig a little deeper. I opened closet doors. Nothing. I got down on my hands and knees, and peered under her bed. Nothing there, either.
I opened drawers, one by one. Still nothing.
Until I saw an odd-shaped thing, half-way sticking up from underneath a sock.
Slowly, I lifted the sock to reveal a half-eaten piece of pizza and a Styrofoam cup, half full of mold covered strawberry smoothie.
I glanced toward the floor. There, right beside her dresser, was her trash can. Child, what were you thinking?
Why hadn’t she made the effort (minimal effort, I might add) to throw away her garbage? Why did she hang on to her half consumed meal like it was a pair of familiar socks? Why was it still there when it should have been gone. Long gone. And why was her garbage stinking up our house?
In full disclosure, this little incident happened years ago. Ashton actually uses trash cans rather than sock drawers to dispose of her garbage now. And we laugh about the incident.
But…this story reminds me of how often many of us tidy up the outside while holding on to emotional or relational garbage, stashing it away in places others can’t see.
Unless they do a little digging.
Or our garbage gets too stinky to stand one more minute.
My husband calls this “stinkin’ thinkin’. And many of us do it. All. The. Time.
Why do we allow ourselves to hold on to thoughts that stink up our hearts, our relationships and our peace of mind, when all it takes is a little effort to toss them in the trash?
Here are the top three reasons we hold on to stinkin’ thinkin’:
We hang on to thoughts we should toss simply because they’re familiar: We’ve been worriers for as long as we can remember. We’ve been cynical since life threw us a curve ball years ago. We’ve been timid and fearful since childhood. We’ve been negative so long we can’t even recall why we became that way. See what I mean? Habit.
Habits like these are not healthy, but maybe more important, they aren’t holy. They stink up our lives because that’s what sin garbage does–it creates the stench of death.
If the negative is so profound it spills out of us, consider how deep it must be inside of us.
How do you determine if your habitual thought should be tossed? Ask yourself this question, Is this habitual way of thinking helpful or hurtful? To my friendships. To my marriage. To my parenting. To myself.
If a habit isn’t helpful, heave it. It doesn’t belong in your mind any more than pizza belongs in a sock drawer.
I’m certain part of the reason Ashton stuck her pizza in her drawer rather than take the steps required to throw it away was just plain laziness. I must admit I can be prone to laziness, too, especially when it comes to filtering my thinking. It takes effort to rein in my thoughts, sorting through which I should keep and which should go. It means I have to actually think about what I think about.
But when I don’t trash the negative it starts to stink up my life. Honestly, it really, truly does.
It affects my peace. My joy. My confidence. My faith. My relationships.
I feel the way I feel because I think the way I think.
I’m pretty sure I see you nodding.
And so, the few steps we take to trash our stinkin’ thinkin’ is worth the effort.
Here’s a vital step: Today, think about what you think about. Trash the garbage and replace it with gratitude. I’m not being glib; try it and see what happens.
Sometimes we don’t recognize trash as trash. After all, we reason, everyone thinks this way. Everyone criticizes their spouse; everyone blames their parents; everyone feels pressure to seem perfect, act perfect, be perfect.
If I want to trash my stinkin’ thinkin’ I have to recognize trash when I see it. Or think it.
Maybe, though, your ignorance manifests itself in the lie, no one else thinks this way. You are the only one. The sole loser who struggles with fear, anxiety, defeat or discouragement.
May I take your hand and whisper something to your tender soul? You are not the only one.
We all struggle with stinkin’ thinkin’. It’s part of our fallen human condition.
But we can, and we should, do something about it.
Because here’s the kicker: What controls my thoughts controls my feelings. And what controls my feelings controls my joy.
Romans 8:6 puts it this way: The mind controlled by the flesh is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.
The easiest way to know whether a thought should be tossed or kept is how you answer this question: Does this thought bring life and peace or does it bring death? Death of peace. Death of hope. Death of confidence. Death of faith. Death of unity.
Don’t embrace what you should erase.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “I’m entertaining the thought”. But here’s the deal: I shouldn’t entertain a thought if I don’t want it to pull up a chair and make itself at home. I don’t need negative, critical, untruthful, prideful, selfish thoughts stinking up my life with the stench of death. And neither do you.
We need to take our stinkin’ thinkin’ and put it where it belongs: the garbage.
If you wonder whether you suffer from stinkin’ thinkin’, take the quiz below to find out. See if you find yourself habitually thinking any of these thoughts:
- I’ll never forgive.
- I’ll never be good enough.
- I’m all alone. No one understands
- I can’t be myself. I have to keep up. I need to do more.
- Nothing will ever change.
- What’s the point? Why try?
- I’m too old, young, fat, thin, tall, short, stupid, shy, loud…
- I should just quit.
- Why can’t he/she/I be more like_____?
- I hate my house, body, wrinkles, job, life, _______.
- You can’t trust anyone. Everyone’s out for themselves.
- I would be happy if only_______.
- It’s all your/his/their/my fault.
- God couldn’t love me.
- God doesn’t care.
- God doesn’t answer my prayers.
- God can’t use me.
- God doesn’t see.
- I can’t handle this.
- I’ll never get over this.
If you realize you’re holding on to stinkin’ thinkin’ don’t shove it back where you think no one will notice. It will eventually come out. Do the only thing that really makes sense: throw it in the trash.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)