We hear a lot these days about accepting responsibility for our actions and it is about time we did. Time is out for casting blame and pointing righteous fingers at others to cover up for our own shortcomings and acting out behaviors. We have got to "nip it, nip it, nip it in the bud" if for no other reason than our own mental health.
So, let's begin by acknowledging that our thoughts trigger our emotions or feelings; our emotions stir up our desires; and then our desires produce our actions. So if we could catch our negative thoughts when they first occur, we could halt the whole chain reaction before it even begins and be successful in preventing things from getting out of hand.
Now, since negative thoughts are the culprit, to get out of the way of yourself, you need to take a good, long, hard look at your negative, growth stunting, crippling, self-defeating thoughts.
Getting out of the way of yourself is not simply changing your thoughts, but actually deleting all old, negative thoughts and replacing them with new positive ones. As the Apostle Paul asserted, you must "renew your mind." You must be willing to sacrifice your own self-centered thinking. Hal Lindsey points out that "to renew" means to exchange one thing for another. In other words, when we delete and replace, we're exchanging our thoughts. If we're not willing to yield, set aside and relinquish our habitual way of thinking, then our thinking process will remain negative, our lives un-transformed, and our behavior undisciplined and enslaved to whimsical thoughts.
There are many reasons why "mind renewal" is critical. It is within our power to discern everything that happens to us from a spiritual vantage point and not get bogged down and buried by our own negative thoughts and feelings or by what we can "see" going on around us. If we can see with spiritual eyes, then we'll be able to "soar" above our circumstances, our problems, and our trials and not get buried under them.
From a realistic and practical perspective, it takes constant discipline to not give in to the negative thoughts and emotions that are trying to crush and drown us. Often, it seems like it would just be easier to give in and let our own feelings rule. But, you know what happens if we do that? Negativity is spawned and we become negatively toxic. And, like any toxin, if not immediately treated can have devastating long term effects.
Mind renewal is what it takes to get out of your own way. Don't forget this important truth: How we choose to think affects how we feel; how we feel have significant influences on our desires; and our desires finally produce our actions.
Let use the example of a woman who excuses her adultery on the grounds that her husband was not "there" for her.
At the front end of the cognitive process were the negative thoughts floating around in her head about her husband not being "there" for her. Her negative self talk led her to feel negatively towards her husband and she desired to punish him in some way which eventuated is her committing adultery (action).
Therefore, if you keep thinking negatively, you will keep yourself confused, hostile, discouraged, vengeful, depressed and so forth. You will be at war against yourself on hostile ground, your own mind. Always realize that the battle is mental. Decide right now to develop a zero tolerance for chronic negativity.
No matter how you may want to look at it, getting out of your own way is an "inside" job. It is of paramount importance that you develop a stance that is willing to set aside your own "justified" feelings, your own petty rights, your own frustrations, offenses, and anything that is not spiritually or emotionally edifying. This is something that is done on the "inside." This internal denying of ourselves is often much harder to do than denying ourselves of external things, because it affects who we really are. It is our personhood, our soul and spirit, our essence. Getting out of our own way is a painful undertaking. However, the old adage is as true today as it ever was and that it; no pain, no gain.
How does one get out of their own way? The Apostle Paul provides the answer. He said, "Do this by the renewing of your mind." That's where the battle is.
Final word: Get out of your way!
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. http://www.clergyservices4u.org. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: A Grief Healing Workbook, will be available soon.