Paul McCartney, a former member of The Beatles, earned a knighthood in 1997 for services to music. He is certainly loved and held in high regard around the world.
In 2007, Paul McCartney released his album called Memory Almost Full. I don’t know the album myself, but I read it sold very well around the world—no surprise there. Paul McCartney says the inspiration for the album’s name came from a phrase he saw on his mobile phone. In an interview he said, “It seemed symbolic of our lives today. Your messages are always full. And your mind is full. And it doesn’t matter if you’re my age or 20. I think that we all need to delete stuff every so often.”
The Self-cleaning Brain
Neuroscience is a fascinating topic—one I know nothing about. But I do read a lot, and those that know these things say the brain does need deleting stuff. That’s why sleep is so important. Experts say the brain goes about pruning. Ever felt like your brain is full up, and you can’t take in anything new? In a way it is full. When you learn lots of new things, your brain builds connections, but they’re inefficient, ad-hoc connections. Your brain needs to prune a lot of those connections away and build more streamlined, efficient pathways. It does that when we sleep.
Weird as it sounds, your brain cleans itself out when you sleep—your brain cells shrinking by up to 60% to create more space. Have you ever woken up from a good night’s rest and been able to think clearly and quickly? That’s because all the pruning and pathway-efficiency that took place overnight has left you with lots of room to take in and synthesise new information—in other words, to learn. It is fascinating stuff the scientists are still working on.
So maybe Paul McCartney knew more than he realised. The memory can get filled up, and we need to start deleting a lot of negative thoughts that have taken over our lives. Get rid of the clutter is another way of saying the same thing. We have to clean out and throw away sometimes—and start thinking about the things that are important to us. Not the trivialities that weigh us down sometimes.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2a – NIV)
Popular Christian teacher Joel Osteen says: “Our mind is like a computer. The way we program it will determine how it’s going to function. Just like a virus can slow down a perfectly good, working computer, our wrong thinking can slow down our destiny. In fact, our lives follow our thoughts. If you’re going to live in victory, you have to learn to hit the delete button and silence the negative thoughts. Romans 12:2 says to Renew your mind with God’s Word. Turn off the negative recording that’s reminding you of everything you’re not, and start reprogramming your mind with God’s Word and who he says you are.” I am sure negative thinking is a big problem for many of us. It’s time to delete that button that says I’m no good—I’m a nobody”. There is a better alternative.
Did you know that the average person has 10,000 separate thoughts each day? That works out to be 3.5 million thoughts a year. And what sort of thoughts are they? Positive or negative, good or bad? Every one of those 10,000 thoughts represents a choice you make, a decision to think about. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Beware of what you set your mind on because that you surely will become.” Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and you change the world.” Henry Ford gave that truth a different spin when he declared, “Thinking is the hardest work in the world, which is probably why so few people engage in it.” Then I ran across this perceptive comment by Betty Sachelli: “Two thoughts cannot occupy the mind at the same time, so the choice is ours whether or not our thoughts will be constructive or destructive.”
Four Kinds of Negative Thinking
So many people struggle with negative thinking. Negative thoughts poison the mind, and ultimately the soul. Here are four common examples of negative thinking:
We all fall into this trap sooner or later. Life is hard for all of us. As the saying goes, into each life some rain must fall. It’s easy to think that somehow we’ve been dealt an unfair hand, that while our neighbour is basking in sunshine, we’re living in a perpetual downpour. This self-pitying person says, You don’t know what I’m going through or You try living with this 24 hours a day and see how happy you are.
This is the other extreme. Blaming is an attempt to find a scapegoat for your problems. You can’t face life on your own, so you find another person who seems to be the source of your problems. It might be your husband or your wife, it could be your children or your parents. It often is a friend, a neighbour, or your boss or someone at church. Blaming is dangerous because it leads to perpetual victimhood.
3. Unwillingness to Change
This more or less follows from the first two categories. Once you immerse yourself in self-pity and once you discover that you are a victim, the logical conclusion is that you can’t or won’t change. Unfortunately, this type of negative thinking tends to reinforce itself. Since you can’t change, then your behaviour can’t be your own fault. So you never have to face it honestly. This person says, It’s no use trying. I’ll never change and I have every right to be hurt and I’m not going to give it up or I know it’s wrong but I’m not going to stop or God made me this way so it’s not my fault.
4. Anger and Bitterness
Usually this is the logical outcome. Once you begin to pity yourself, you become a victim. But victims can’t be blamed, right? Therefore you refuse to face the possibility that you yourself are the source of your own problems. When others suggest otherwise, you get angry, defensive and bitter. You remember every miserable thing ever done to you or against you. You get upset over the slightest negative remark made by others. You bristle at any notion that your life could be different. You hold grudges—even though you say you don’t. Your thoughts matter! Negative thinking leads to negative living.
The Benefits of Positive Thinking
But that’s not the only option. The Bible has the best advice of all. I know Dr Norman Vincent Peale wrote a best-seller entitled The Power of Positive Thinking. But he wasn’t the first positive thinker. That honour should go to the Apostle Paul. At the end of his letter to the Philippians, he gives a prescription for positive thinking that if followed has the power to transform your life. Listen to his practical advice in Philippians 4:8:
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”