Tough Minds For Tough Times
My spiritual brother Alain brought into focus the idea that a major flaw in our make-up is the tendency for us to seek the easy way out. When faced with tough decisions there is a strong temptation and tendency for us to choose less difficult options. We don’t look forward to struggle, pain and suffering with glee.
Yet James would have us turn our world upside down:
James1: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
This issue took over my thoughts when I saw someone on TV going across a narrow bridge with no guard rails over a deep gorge. A fall would lead unquestionably to death. I found myself thinking that I could not do that. I could not walk across – I would be too scared.
That prompted a swift chastisement of my mind for that kind of negative thinking and inspired the view that we have grown lax in the use of our minds. We have become loose in our thinking and allowed our minds to run wild without firm control.
James 3 vs 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. The bit there is what we call today a bridle.
I think we underestimate the power that we walk around with at the top of our bodies. We lose sight of how trainable our minds are. I think that before we can enter our minds into the Olympian equestrian event of avoiding conformance with the world we need to first get our minds ready to allow us to put saddles on their backs and bridles in their mouths.
I actually did some research on breaking in a horse which is instructive in our attempts to modify our behavior and to lead or coach others. A 5-step process is recommended.
- Gain the trust of your horse. Having a personal relationship with your horse is imperative in building trust with him, and allowing you to train him later on. Spend time with your horse every day, starting with just being near him and grooming
Our minds have been dominated by an impostor self. A self-image that we hold to be true. In same way that you can’t just throw a saddle on a wild stallion, we need to approach this mind taming process systematically.
The first stage then would be to spend time truly discovering on a daily basis what is going on in your mind. Get to really know who you are – mentally. What interests you, what inspires you, what scares you, what frustrates you, what tempts you, what angers you, what embarrasses you, what prompts you to hide your true feelings?
- Practice Safety. Horses are powerful and you need to be careful around them.
Well, you are about to change the behaviour of a mind that has been carefully groomed by forces that will not easily see their investment go to waste. If you get over-confident and careless during the exercise you could experience a backlash.
Eph 612 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
- Take it one step at a time.Breaking a horse is a slow process. You have to fully make each step a habit before moving on to the next step.
As we go about regaining control of our minds and bringing them under subjection we should start with micro-steps.
Your rational true self decides that you should get up and go and exercise. Impostor self pulls the cover back over your head.
Those are the battles that we need to win before we can talk about major transformation. We have to let our bodies know who is calling the shots now.
Read what Paul says we need to do about bodies who think they have a mind of their own:
1Co 9:25 Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26 That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27 I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest. (GNB)
We have allowed ourselves to grow soft and we need to toughen up in order to get ready for tough times.
We have to track down every “can’t be bothered”; every “I don’t feel like it”; every “it is too much trouble”; all “it’s too hard”; and every “I can’t manage it”.
Turn bright searchlights on “I know this not so right but…”
Some of our minds are galloping downhill like a runaway stage coach. We have to rein them in.
Take one bad habit at a time and work on it until the replacement becomes a habit. Like with the training of the horse you should not move on until the new habit is formed.
As you go through the process of looking into thoughts, words and deeds identify things that you would be better off without. Aspire to be a better person.
Did you catch yourself envying someone?
Is selfishness lurking within? What about jealousy? Maybe arrogance, unjustified levels of stubbornness. Are you guilty of being disrespectful when you are holding the handle?
This exercise in saddling, taming and reining in our minds is a great opportunity for spring cleaning.
But the training is not only about bad habits.
We can also aspire to develop our minds in new, positive directions. We can expand our horizons.
What about working to develop a spirit of bravery
Or your capacity to deal with major challenges – Job
Or to offer wise counsel.
Or to show compassion – Consider Joseph with his brothers who sold him into slavery.
With God’s guidance we can bend our minds to be what we want them to be. Let us stop settling for less than we can be.
Let’s take this to another level. Show jumpers don’t just turn up at the show ground and expect to get through the course without penalty. Horse and rider spend hours in preparation.
We cannot expect to clear life’s obstacle course without adequate preparation. We have to get our minds ready for the challenges that we will face in life.
- Failed relationships
- Financial disaster
- Major health challenges
James took care to show us what is possible for us.
James 5: 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
It all comes down to the bridling of our minds to get them to do what they need to do. Rein in our minds and life can take on new meaning. Let us toughen our minds as we prepare for tough times.
Decide right here right now to work on one mind building project. Over the next 60 days you are going to have a new habit manifest itself in your life.
Transformational projects work more effectively when you declare them to at least one person who will hold you accountable.
Work on any area of your life. In fact, it might be best not to take on too challenging a task initially. Start out with something that you can ace and build on that success.
- Never get angry is the next step in breaking in the horse.
The suggestion is that yelling and beating the horse pushes back the trust and bonding that you have been working to develop.
One huge challenge in moving to behavioural transformation is negative self-talk. An emotional outburst of anger directed at ourselves resonates at the subconscious level and actually has the opposite effect of what we desire. What stands out is that we are clumsy or careless or stupid. Not that we could be a little more attentive, careful or thoughtful.
A calm yet firm and consistent prodding in the right direction will get best results. You slipped on the stairs so: Remember that you are the champion of taking special care on stairs.
Or the empowering question version: Why do I always take special care on stairs?
Getting angry sometimes also has the effect in causing us to abort the process. We give up frustration because we can’t deal with the constant annoyance. Taming the beast requires patience and long-suffering. Make progress slowly but steadily. Only never quit!
- Reward successes. Giving the horse positive reinforcement is very important in bringing about the desired change.
Catching people doing the right thing has proven to be more effective in achieving lasting behavioural transformation than looking out for faults and berating them about their shortcomings.
The same thing happens internally. Celebrate when you get it right. When you get it wrong, gently provide guidance to get back on track.
If the horse goes off track, using the rein and applying pressure with the knee can help them to correct course.
Similarly, if you missed out on completing a task you could reinforce the need for compliance by cutting out your favourite cable show and doing it then.
Tough times require tough minds.
Let us stop the drift towards minds that are unbridled, lacking in discipline and without direction.
Let us work to develop one new habit within 60 days.