You Are What You Think
Have you ever heard the phrase: “You are what you eat?” Do you know that it is absolutely true. Food provides more than just calories (energy) for your body. The amino acids and other molecules that form you come from the foods you eat. Approximately every three months you have a complete set of new cells. (There are some, like neurons, that are not replaced.) So, within three months you have a completely new body.
Have you ever hear the phrase: “You are what you think?” Probably not. Yet it is the core of many adages like:
If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. (Dale Carnegie)
The Bible has some similar advice.
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. (Prov. 23:7a)
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder,” and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. . . . You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not commit adultery,” but I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt. 5:21, 22, 27, 28)
These quotes reveal that how we think effects how we act but does how we think really shape who we are?
In the book Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman describes some breakthroughs in neuroscience regarding what are called mirror neurons. These neurons are essential to our ability to empathize with others. Have you ever wondered why you feel sad when you see someone who is sad? Mirror neurons. They allow us to literally experience the same emotion as another person by just observing the other person.
Scientist are finding that these mirror neurons do more than that though. If you see someone eating an ice cream cone, the same neurons in your brain that are activated when you are eating an ice cream cone will become activated by just watching some else eat an ice cream cone. It is as if you are experiencing eating the ice cream cone.
There is more. I heard a story years ago about a POW who had been an avid golfer before he was drafted. While in prison camp, he knew that he had to do something to distract himself from the horror that had become his life. So he played golf. In his imagination, he played golf on every golf course he had ever played. I believe he was held in prison for a couple of years. Upon his return home, he decided to go play golf. Remember he had not touched a golf club in at least 2 years, yet he played the best game of his life. Why?
Simulating an act is, in the brain, the same as performing it, except that the actual execution is somehow blocked. (Social Intelligence)
What you think shapes you. And what you think is often influenced by what you see.
One of my favorite verse is 2 Corinthians 3:18
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image form glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
There are many application of this verse, but think of it in the context of what you’ve just read. What you behold or look at on a regular basis shapes you. Why do you think the first responders at the towers on 9/11 struggled with deep depression after the event? Even the rescue dog were so demoralized by only finding corpuses that firemen had to crawl into the rubble and hide for the dogs to find them, so the dogs could find a survivor.
Beholding violence on a regular basis makes you more violent. Not because you want to be violent, but because your brain thinks you’ve been violent. On the flip side, beholding acts of kindness and respect changes your brain in that direction.
In 1901 Ellen White said:
. . . Christ is our example. By beholding Him we are to be changed into His image, from glory to glory, from character to character. This is our work. God help us rightly represent the Saviour to the world.
Incredible, isn’t it. It is so simple, yet so profound.
How do our thought effect our interaction with others though?
[S]elf-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection — or compassionate action. (Social Intelligence)
Here is another bombshell.
I [Alan Alda] know from my experience as an actor that an authentic tone of voice is produced deep inside the brain, not in the voice box. My layman’s guess is that an authentic tone, a tone that means what it says, relies heavily on the social circuits in the brain. This kind of tone is produced less by a decision to sound a certain way and more by our relationship with the other person. (If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?)
Remember the verses at the beginning? Here is the scientific proof. Warm happy people are not warm and happy because of their circumstance, not even because they are or aren’t Christians. They are warm and happy because they are focused on others. As Christians, we are warm and happy if we are focused on Christ and have a clear understanding of His love and acceptance of us.
By beholding Christ, His love and acceptance, we cannot help but be changed. Are you struggling in your life? Maybe you should evaluate what you are looking at.