The problem with labels
Labels can be really helpful. Like when you are making a coffee and want to put sugar, not salt, in. Labels and prescriptions have genuine uses. But sometimes labels can be limiting and can trap us in their confines.
Today, a lot of people want to label themselves as their Myers-Briggs combination of four letters or their Enneagram type. They want to explain aspects of their persona by the prescriptions and descriptions given by these personality and psychological tools. Perhaps to have an excuse for an undesirable trait or a way to conveniently boast about a strength.
However, one of the problems with these tools is that they are created by humans and do not pertain to our whole selves. While they are definitely useful and can be utilised in a productive way, it is not healthy or constructive to limit your beliefs and values to these tools.
We shouldn’t let our thoughts and actions be dictated by the fact we might be an ENFP or a type four on the Enneagram. When we become a slave to the labels, we become a slave to our thoughts and feelings influenced by these labels.
Mislead by our thoughts
Our thoughts and feelings can mislead us. Sometimes we might focus on the negative or focus on our selfish desires. Our thoughts and feelings might be influenced by fears that we have and the subsequent limits we place on God through these fears and past experiences.
But we have a choice. You may not realise but you can choose what you think. You can choose what you focus on.
For sure, you can pray that the Holy Spirit brings you peace and can shape your thinking to have the mind of Christ, a renewing of your mind.
But our ordinary thought life can be shaped by us.
Awhile ago, a preacher in my church said during a sermon: “your focus determines your reality” and it has really stuck with me. It is true that what you focus on and give attention to becomes the habits and practices in your life. This goes for positive and negative things.
Your focus determines your reality
The thoughts you have can influence your feelings and behaviours as well as the way you react and respond to things.
I don’t know about your personal circumstances but I often feel worried or stressed about things going on in my life and in the world around me.
I find myself worrying and focusing on the negative things, which leads to more stress and feeling down. Sometimes the things I worry about are difficult to solve, so I then feel further discontent that I can’t do anything about them.
But it doesn’t have to be this way because we have a choice. We can choose what we think and feel.
An attitude of gratitude
More recently, the senior pastor of my church gave a sermon on gratitude. A couple of gold nuggets from that sermon were: “the more we express gratitude the more likely we will have even more to express gratitude for” and that “gratitude doesn’t change what is in front of us, gratitude changes the way we see it”.
The more we express gratitude and focus on for what we can be grateful, it becomes easier to find more things to be grateful about and we adopt an attitude and posture of gratitude. This attitude becomes our reality.
We can become more naturally grateful and our response to things can sooner be one of gratitude, rather than holding onto a negative emotion.
The things in front of us won’t change. A difficult situation will still be a difficult situation. A bad thing will still be a bad thing. But we can look at it and see it as something to be grateful about. Perhaps it will teach us a new lesson, or we learn that we need to rely on God more and ourselves less.
We have a choice
We have a choice with our thoughts. We can choose to see things as something to be grateful about. We don’t have to be slaves to the thoughts and emotions that hold us back from the growth and wonder that God provides us in this life.
Of course, we should take the time to grieve when we need to and to be realistic in our actions. But when you discover the freedom that Christ offers us, the freedom from fear, worry, and being slaves to sin, you can know that you can choose your thoughts.
I pray we choose to look to Christ, and may the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, bring us peace and strength to think well.
Rebecca Hoverd studies law and geography at The University of Auckland and loves writing as a way to communicate with God and to unpack her thoughts. She loves coffee, conversations, and would love to hear your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.