Welcome to week eleven of our Renew Your Mind Challenge! I am so glad you have joined us! In this 13-week challenge, I am sharing with you the single most life-changing truth I have personally discovered.
I will update the links below as I post them.
1. Back to the Beginning
2. Fix Your Mind
3. Accepting His Love
4. Love Into Joy
5. Joy Into Peace
6. Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness
9. Overcome Evil With Good
I used to be depressed, needy, easily offended, anxious, stressed – the list goes on. Now I am happy, fulfilled, and at peace. I discovered the answer at 29 years of age. The secret to happiness lies in your inner response to life: perceptions, intentions, feelings, thought patterns, beliefs. Come along with me and let your faith come alive to you in a new way – a way that will change everything. Each week, we will focus on one small yet powerful action we can take to change our inner life, and renew ourselves into the love of God.
Today we are going to talk about the second practical tool we can use to renew our minds. This tool is called “reframing.”
We touched on “reframing” a little bit last week near the end of our lesson on gratitude. Today we are going to go into more detail. Let’s start by talking about what “reframing” is.
“Reframing” is intentionally changing your perception, or your way of thinking, about a specific situation, person, or experience.
The Bible tells us to “renew our minds,” because our thoughts and beliefs determine our spiritual condition. We have seen this in previous lessons. And as we have also seen, our spiritual, or inner condition, directly affects our outward actions.
Our inner response to life is so powerful that it can actually change our entire experience of life, even if the circumstances themselves don’t change. Often times, however, our response to life can be powerful enough to change aspects of our circumstances going forward. In this way, our thoughts about what happens to us affect what happens to us. We can change our perception or experience of what happens to us by changing our thoughts.
To demonstrate this point, let me share a story that my mom used to tell my siblings and I as we sat around the table eating our lunch. The story went something like this:
The story of the two hungry men
“Once upon a time, there were two men. Both of them had walked all day long. They were exhausted and hungry. They came upon an inn and sat down to eat what had been served them.
A large pot sat in the middle of the table, filling the room with a delicious smell. Excitedly, they removed the lid and peered into the pot.
‘Peas and carrots!’ shouted the first man! ‘I walk all day, and this is what I’m served? How dare they!’ Offended, he arrogantly refused to eat and went to bed hungry.
“Peas and carrots!” exclaimed the second man! ‘I am hungry enough to eat anything! This will be the best bowl of vegetables I have ever tasted!” Filled with gratitude, he ate his fill and slept soundly.
These two men shared the same outward circumstances. They had both walked all day. They were both tired and hungry. They were both served a bowl of peas and carrots. But they each had very different inner responses and outer experiences going forward. One left angry, disappointed, hungry, and exhausted. The other left satisfied, happy, and well-rested. Why? Because they thought differently about that bowl of peas and carrots.
Now to really make this personal, let me share a few examples from my own life. For each example, I will share the scenario, my old thought pattern, my new thought pattern, and the “experience of life” that each thought pattern created.
My husband is gone several nights a week and on weekends working over-time. His schedule is unpredictable, causing me to be unreliable in making plans. (I am a stay-at-home mom)
Old thought pattern: “I’m spending so much time alone. I am sooooo lonely. I can’t make plans with anyone. I’m stuck at home all the time. I just need a break. I’m so upset that I’m going to be late for my plans with so-and-so. I’m going to go crazy if I can’t get out of here”
Old experience of life: Feelings of depression, intense loneliness, and dissatisfaction. Feeling exhausted, wiped out, sucked dry, doing the bare minimum, annoyed with the kids for needing me constantly
New thought pattern: “I am so thankful that my husband has a great job with responsibility where he is needed. I’m so thankful that I get to be home with my babies. There are so many things I can do with the kids tonight! I’ll just enjoy a quiet night at home. There will be other opportunities to go out.”
New experience of life: Feelings of contentment, joy, and satisfaction with my life. Appreciation for my hard-working husband. Excitement about designing a rich and fulfilling life for my children. Enjoyment of his time away.
My kids are whining, bickering, and crying all day long for several days in a row. I am being called every two minutes, pulled on, climbed on, talked back to. During naptime the boys won’t stay in their beds.
Old thought pattern: “I am going to lose my mind! I am going to scream if one of them whines again. I can’t deal with this – I need a break! Shut up, shut up, shut up! Leave me alone for two minutes!”
Old experience of life: Feelings of helplessness, anger, and resentment. Losing my temper, yelling, and snapping at the kids all day long. Feeling mentally and emotionally drained by the time Ryan gets home.
New thought pattern: “My love is strong enough to handle this. I am at peace. I have been given an opportunity to teach these babies about strength and love.”
New experience of life: Viewing the rough day as an opportunity for all of us to grow. Practicing patience and gentleness, the kids feeling seen and loved, and everyone calming down.
Someone that I love does something that hurts me.
Old thought pattern: “I don’t understand how they could do that. I feel so unloved. I must have deserved it somehow. I am unlovable. I hate myself.”
Old experience of life: A complete emotional breakdown. Placing distance between myself and this person leading to awkwardness. Feelings of depression, worthlessness, and self-hatred.
New thought pattern: “We are all limited beings. This is just a blind spot of theirs. My love is strong enough to handle this. I have been given an opportunity to respond in love. I forgive.”
New experience of life: Freedom from offense and hurt, the joy of responding in love, measurable growth in empathy and understanding resulting in a stronger relationship with this person.
Reframing takes consistency and time. Don’t be discouraged if you forget or slip up, especially in the beginning. Remember, growth is a life-long process! The “new thought pattern” must be chosen over and over and over, in the midst of the challenges, until it becomes a natural response. The good news is that is is easy! It is simply saying something to yourself – something that makes you stronger, happier, and more loving! Also, in my experience, the results of reframing are instant when you remember to do it. Thoughts are incredibly and instantly powerful.
Week Ten Challenge: Practice reframing using the methods shown above. In life’s challenging moments, choose a positive thought pattern. Say these positive thoughts over and over until they become natural.