Feeding and Starving Habits and Mindset
However, I am resolute that I’d rather learn to feed good thoughts and behaviors than starve my life of all the good things with which God has blessed me and my family.
I’ll never forget that day when I called myself "pleading my case" to a friend about how difficult it was for me to improve my circumstance. I was moaning about how every time I thought things were getting better, another challenge arose. After a few minutes of hearing me cry "woe is me," he placed his hand on my shoulder and dispensed to me the advice that led to the improvement I sought. His advice wasn't earth-shaking or super-spiritual as much as my friend caused me to see that I wasn't a victim trapped in my circumstance.
I soon learned that he didn't pity me because of my circumstance, but he pitied me because of how I thought about my circumstance.
So as a good friend, he told me to "FEED WHAT I WANT TO LIVE and STARVE WHAT I WANT TO DIE." And just like that, I saw what my problem was. I was a woman who had become engrossed with negative thoughts surrounding the on-going exposure to rejection in nearly every area of my life. It hadn’t truly sunk in that I was starving the good things in my life like God’s grace and mercy that saved me from the hurts of my past. If He had not made a way for me, I would merely be an older lady with the same insecurities and brokenness from my past.
We are all a few decisions away from being the tattered child of our yesteryear or the broken person from our hardships. Life is tough, and when the tough gets going, people sometimes revert to childish ways instead of courageously seeking help from God and anyone else who can help us improve our situation. If not reacting in an immature manner, we have the tendency to get stuck in our hardships. Ever been there - reverting to childish old ways or standing stuck in the emotional muck and mire brought on by hardships?
My friend’s advice was just what I needed to help me set my thoughts on the right path so that my new mode of operation could starve what was behind me. Like Paul states in Philippians 3:13, I have had to learn how to “forget those things that are behind me, and press, press toward the things that are ahead of me.” (I include two presses for emphasis on the difficulty to press sometimes. Pressing has been a figment of my imagination when I find myself stuck in the past.)
Experts tell us to practice mindfulness to tackle bad habits and establish good ones. They say mindfulness is the mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. Staying aware of our thoughts and behaviors, as well as determining what triggers them, can help break bad habits while establishing good ones. As we get better at recognizing that space between the stimulus and the response, refraining from bad habits become more natural. A related study found that new habits took an average of 66 days to be established, but the range was 18 to 254 days. 254 days – that’s well over eight months – that’s an eternity when you’re hurting. So, we should be intentional about creating good habits; this is the idea behind mindfulness. Can God supernaturally free us from bad habits? Rhetorically yes. Will He? Well, He’s not obligated to do so, meaning there's no guarantee.
This study became important to me to overcome the depressive thoughts of rejection. It has been a long road traversing through the sadness in silence. However, I am resolute that I’d rather learn to feed good thoughts and behaviors than starve my life of all the good things with which God has blessed me and my family.
So, what lessons have I learned over the years about feeding and starving since my friend blessed me with this great advice? For starters, I see that we can’t let people who do so little for us (if anything at all) control so much of our minds, feelings, and emotions. The older we get, we must fight for family and friends who are purposeful, not just coincidental. We must be intentional about who we allow to get inside our minds to influence us.
This lesson struck me at just the right time because I had dealt with guilt over some "family” and “friends" falling by the wayside. I try my best to get along with everyone, but the truth is, it is virtually impossible. As much as I may try to develop a relationship with someone, I can't do it if they don't want it. And it doesn't work the other way around either. Although we should try to get along with each other, we must settle it in our hearts that it is impossible to get along with everyone in which we want to be in a relationship. Paul states that we should “live at peace with everyone as much as it is within our power,” Romans 12:18. We don’t have the power to ensure peace between us and family and friends who oppose us. All we can do is keep the door open to them, even if the chances of them walking through it are slim to none. Jesus modeled forgiving everyone – enemies, betrayers, even the Judas’ in our lives.
I can count on one hand the family and friends that I can trust with my deepest secrets, hurts, and dreams, the ones who will listen and care about what they hear yet are bold enough to tell me when I'm wrong even when they know it may hurt me. I’ve learned these honest and caring souls are the family and friends with whom we want to be purposeful and intentional.
With the Holy Spirit’s help and wisdom, today I can live without the people who have chosen to reject me without reason. Or if there is a reason, they have chosen to keep it from me. The feeding and starving tool that I’ve adopted in my life has been instrumental in my coming to spiritual maturity in this area – and yes, I miss them dearly.
When life gets tough, please consider using the tool my friend gave me years ago and see our unlimited God do something special with your human limitation: “FEED WHAT YOU WANT TO LIVE; STARVE WHAT YOU WANT TO DIE.”