Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
My mind raced as aggravation consumed me. In less than one minute I had tallied all the things I was doing and how little I was receiving in return. Thoughts like, I shouldn’t be treated this way and I deserve better, swirled me dizzy as I sunk deeper into a whirlpool of of negativity.
Has that ever happened to you? Perhaps you’ve been mistreated at a job, spoken to disrespectfully by a family member, or given the cold shoulder by a friend. It’s easy to dwell on all the things that person is doing wrong and everything we’re doing right.
This message hit home for me while listening to a podcast about relationship dynamics. The speaker challenged the listener to ask one important question – “What is it like being in a relationship with me?” In other words, am I easy to get along with?
I was hit with an embarrassing realization that I often keep score in a bad way. Focusing on the shortcomings of others builds my self-confidence and centering my attention on how I’m not doing those things allows me to feel better about myself. But only temporarily. And it’s exhausting to hold onto these offenses.
God never intended relationships to be that way. We can’t build each other up as we’re called to do in I Thessalonians 5:11 by tearing each other down and when we keep track of mistakes, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Philippians 4:8 gives examples of what our thought life ought to be like – whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – think on these things.
Choosing to think about what God wants us to think about changes our mood and outlook on our circumstances. Looking for the good helps us forgive the bad as we mentally tally the positive.
Now, when I find myself focusing on the negative, I take inventory of my thoughts by asking three questions:
- Are my thoughts true? There may be truth to the negative thoughts I’m having, but it’s likely I’m exaggerating the circumstances a bit. No, they down always speak with a rude tone. No, they’re not always on my case. We can release agitation by keeping the situation in proper perspective, thus being set free from a negative thought cycle (John 8:32).
- Are my intentions pure? If my intentions are to build myself up, I need to shift my heart from a position of defense to one of peace-keeping. I Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” When I keep score of how others are offending me, I miss the opportunity to love them. It takes intentionality and mindfulness to extend grace when we’re being rubbed the wrong way. Keeping pure thoughts towards one another leads us to forgive.
- Does God admire my thoughts right now? This one is a real show-stopper for me. I’d like to believe that what stays inside my head is concealed, but Psalm 139:2 says God perceives my thoughts from afar. Nothing is hidden from Him. Imagine the prick of disappointment God experiences when we think harshly of His other children. Knowing how much Jesus loves me stirs a passion to please Him with my thoughts, words, and actions. It takes practice, but we can learn to redirect our hearts and minds to think on what God would deem admirable.
Taking inventory of my thoughts diverts them to a favorable pathway. I’m reminded that the person I am criticizing is loved by God just as much as I am. This shift in perspective leads me to consider their good qualities, tallying positive marks for them and releasing my bitterness and resentment in the process. And that, my friend, begins my method of keeping score in a good way. Ready to give it a try?