Changing Negative Thinking

Thoughts are interesting things. They have no material value. They have no physical weight, no measurable space, and no visible presence. They come from inside us with little to no effort from us. And although they are innumerable[1] they are invisible. Or are they?

In 1952 author Norman Vincent Peale brought the importance of this subject to center stage when he wrote The Power of Positive Thinking. Shining a spotlight on our thoughts, the book went on to be a New York Times best seller. Apparently, our thoughts, tucked away in the privacy of our minds and imperceptible to the external world have a significant impact on us. Thoughts are formative to our very lives. But we don’t need a self-help book form the 50’s to tell us that. The Bible states clearly that “as a man thinks in his heart so he is” (Prov. 23:7). Our thoughts determine what we do, develop how we live, and define our identity.

Our thoughts determine what we do, develop how we live, and define our identity.

Eliza Huie– Changing Negative Thinking

Think about the truth.

We need to fill our minds with what is accurate and factual regarding ourselves. Since our thoughts shape who we are, we must be concerned with thinking about the truth. In light of this, it underscores the importance that our thoughts be true.

Not so good truth.

What if the truth is not good? What if the truth is that we really messed up or we failed in this or that area? What should we do with true thoughts that remind us we say or do things that are unkind, wrong, and sinful? What if the truth is that our lives our filled with bad news and very real troubles? When this is the case, we can find ourselves stuck in patterns of destructive thinking. Similarly to the self-help book title, we also know the power in negative thinking is very significant.

What else is true?

We cannot deny that some true things are not good. In fact, some truth is just awful. Mistakes cannot be undone, and harsh words can’t be unsaid. Painful realities we have endured cannot be wished away and our minds can be flooded with not-so-good thoughts. When this is the case, we have a choice to make. When the negative thoughts come, acknowledge their truth but then ask yourself; What else is true? What other truth do you need to be thinking about right then and there? Let me make this practical with an exercise.

And What Else

I can’t remember where I first learned this exercise, but I find it very helpful. When negative truths dominate your thinking, when you can only call to mind the bad you have done, or when reminders of the wrong done to you feel as though they are on continual recall, use the three letters A-W-E to help guide you toward a change in your thinking. These three simple letters can change the barrage of negative thinking. They simply stand for And What Else. Yes—you have said and done some regretful things but what else is true of you? Yes—You had a terrible experience but what else is true? Yes—it was truly awful what happened but what else is also true? The awful things that happened really did happen and they were terribly bad, but what else is true? And what else: A.W.E. Allow yourself space to think about what else is true. As a Christian there is so much more that is true of you. Here are some examples. Read them slowly, thinking about each one.

  • You are a child of God. (Jn. 1:12)
  • You are a friend of Jesus. (Jn. 15:15)
  • You are loved and not condemned (Jn. 3:16-17)
  • You are forgiven. (Col. 1:13-14)
  • You are justified. (Rom. 5:1)
  • You are a saint. (Eph. 1:1)
  • You are free of condemnation now and forever. (Rom. 8:1-2)
  • You can find grace and mercy when you need it. (Heb. 4:16)
  • You have full access to God. (Eph. 3:12)
  • You are protected from the evil one. (1 Jn. 5:18)

When negative thoughts fill your mind pause and intentionally think or, as the Scripture says, meditate on what else is true. When you do this, the simplicity of the acrostic comes to life as it moves you to stand in awe (A.W.E) of the amazing truth of who you are in Christ and how much God loves you.

Practice makes _________.

This exercise is exactly what Paul was instructing us to do in Philippians chapter four verse eight when he wrote:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

Most Christians know that verse well. Maybe you have even memorized it. But did you know what comes right after that? Verse nine says this:

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Did you catch that? Paul says these things take practice! Negative thinking comes easy. Right thinking takes practice. This takes intentional focus, but it is life changing. We have all heard it said that practice makes _______ (fill in the blank). “Perfect!” I actually think it is more accurate to say that “practice makes permanent.” When our thoughts accurately reflect the truth of Scripture and we practice meditating on what it says regarding who we are, it changes us permanently.

I hope this motivates you to practice the A.W.E exercise the next time you feel yourself spiraling downward in negative thinking. The more you practice, the more permanent the truth of God’s word will become the dominant source of your thoughts.

Since our thoughts shape who we are, we must be concerned with thinking about the truth.

Eliza Huie– Changing Negative Thinking


[1] A recent research project concluded that the average person has approximately 6200 thoughts a day. It is likely this will change the more research is conducted. https://www.newsweek.com/humans-6000-thoughts-every-day-1517963

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