Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sow A Thought--The Art of Mental Graven Images

Last night I picked up a book from my shelf called The Art of Thinking. The author had one idea that I couldn't seem to let go of until I wrote about it:

 "All we can say is: 1. That most of our mental operations are inseparable from images, or are produced by images...2. That those images closely correspond to wishes or repulsions, to things we want or do not want, so that this wanting or not wanting seems to be the ultimate motive power in our psychology, probably in connection with elementary conditions in our being. 3. That inevitably, people will reveal in their thoughts and speeches, in their outlook on life and in their lives themselves, the quality of the images filling their minds. Investigation and estimation of these images, together with investigation and estimation of our likes and dislikes, will tell us what we are worth morally more accurately than even our actions, for they are the roots of action" (19).

This quote in turn brings to mind the famous proverb often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny." So, it hit me that we should guard our minds against these images and be very careful what we allow to enter our minds. I realize this is not a new thought, but it struck me in a fresh way.

Our thoughts are made up of images, so if we want to change our thoughts or our actions we have to tackle it at the level of the images. Maybe this I why God placed a ban on idols and graven images in Israel. In the classic book 1984 Orwell writes about the idea that if a society eliminates words from the vocabulary it also eliminates the ideas associated with those words. If you don't have words to convey a concept, it's difficult to have a clear thought, let alone pass it along.

So what if these mental images work in the same way? If we begin to eradicate our minds of sinful images--images that fuel covetousness, lust, pride, etc.--we begin getting rid of the building blocks of sinful thoughts and actions. The authors of Every Man's Battle propose this when they write about "starving the eyes." But it's not enough to get rid of these images (if we even can) without overwriting them with other ones.

This is where Romans 12:1-2 helps me begin to understand this process. "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Paul adds more to this picture in Philippians 4:8 when he writes, "Finally, brothers, 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."

If we want Christ Jesus to control our lives, it's time we start allowing Him to overwrite some of the corrupted files in our minds with His own image rather than lesser gods around us.

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan /

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