Continuing the Journey to Joy.
It takes concentration and focus. It also requires a strong desire to change your mindset. Satisfaction with the Status Quo will only result in more of the same. God has been showing me that my thoughts about circumstances and people cause me more misery than the circumstances and people themselves. But knowing it and changing are two different things. It’s never been more important to take charge of your thoughts than it is right now.
As I write, the world is embroiled in containing COVID-19. As I was mulling over and judging some of the actions taken by officials in this crisis, I was brought up short by the Holy Spirit. He brought to my attention how often I feel a need to evaluate and judge and what a bad habit it is. It robs me of my joy and wastes my time on things over which I have no control. This society is obsessed with evaluating and expressing an opinion about everything and everyone, whether large or small. It begins to feel like the norm and even a responsibility.
Constant critical brain flow is a negative thought pattern. Tommy Newberry, author of 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, calls these negative patterns RATS—Really Awful Thoughts. On Day 17 he identifies several categories of RATS.
- Amplifiers over generalize the situation by using words like always, never, no one, and every time. Most likely to show up in marriage or parenting.
- Feelers go with their emotions rather than considering that negative emotions may not be true.
- Guessers pretend they know what others are thinking and they assume the worst. This often sets off an emotional response from the other person and starts a negative cycle.
- Exaggerators make mountains out of molehills with trigger words like horrible, devastated, worst.
- Identifiers take things personally and interpret negative events as personal attacks.
- Forecasters predict the worst loudly and for all to hear. (Lots of that going on in our current situation.)
- Blamers point the finger at someone else for their problems. Even when someone else is occasionally to blame, finger-pointing robs you for your ability to take responsibility for your own joy and to change a situation.
Newberry promises to give us some RAT-killing strategies, but for today he asks that we identify our three most common RATS and indicate under what circumstance they thrive, then jot down a few ideas for counteracting those thoughts.
In a difficult situation such as the current Corona Virus Pandemic, how do you do that keeps the RATS at bay?