It's amazing how much our thinking influences how we feel. If it rains on Saturday the farmers are happy and the golfers are sad. It's the same silly rain, but they're thinking different thoughts about the rain.
I first learned the importance of how we think when I was at the mental health clinic (remember, I was on staff, not actually in the mental health clinic). We had diagnostic meetings every afternoon — boring meetings. I thought, "How could I liven up these meetings?" One day I found a gorilla suit. Now you may ask why a gorilla suit was at the mental health clinic. I don't know. It looked like some monkey business was going on, but I decided I could use this to liven things up. So ... when everyone was in the meeting, I charged into the room wearing the gorilla suit. Everyone took off. (You see, you never totally relax when you work at the mental health clinic.) I chased a nurse down the hall. Finally, she reached the end of the hall with no place to go. She turned around and looked pretty bad — somewhere between a migraine headache and acid indigestion. I thought I had done enough damage so I took off the gorilla head and said, "It's not a gorilla. It's not a patient. It's me, Dr. Lowery." I won't tell you what she said; it wasn't very nice. What she thought had stressed her out and, you guessed it, she blamed it on me.
How many of us are letting our thoughts stress us out? You see, in one way the body is incredibly dumb. It just does what the brain tells it to do. It doesn't have to be true. It just has to think it's true. For example, I once had a headache and told Penny I was going to take an Advil. Later, she asked how my headache was, to which I told her, "It's a lot better, that Advil sure works." She said, "Good, because you got the pills out, then you left them on the counter." You see, I don't have to take an Advil for my headache, I just have to think I've taken an Advil for my headache.
Let me illustrate how thinking can mean the difference between work and play. A man came home from work every day, sat in his recliner and enjoyed a little peace and quiet. But one day the neighborhood boys discovered that the man's backyard was a natural ball field. So they started playing ball there every afternoon, making lots of noise, and disturbing our friend. He would go outside and holler at them trying to make them leave, but they'd always come back. He finally called the sheriff who ran them off. But the next day they were back. Then our friend had an idea. He went outside and called the kids. Finally, they came. He apologized and said he was sorry he'd run them off. He said he'd really learned to enjoy the noise they made and asked if they would come and make noise again. If they would, he would pay each of them a quarter. They were excited and showed up the next day and made lots of noise. He asked them to come back the following day and make noise, and he would pay them again. He said this every day but kept lowering their pay a nickel until he was down to paying them just one nickel. And he said, "I really want you to come back tomorrow and make noise, but I can only pay you a penny. Will you come?" They said, "No, we're not playing for a penny." They got mad and never came back to play, and our man is enjoying his peace and quiet.
What happened? Our friend was able to change their thinking. At first, playing ball was fun, but when they were paid, they started thinking of it as work. And of course if you don't get paid for your work, you quit.
Thinking ... WOW! It really is important. No wonder Yogi Berra said, "Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical."
Now, before you go and buy the newest positive thinking book, let me tell you that just changing your thinking is not the total answer. When I worked for the state hospital, I met a man dressed in an ornate military outfit who said he was Napoleon and inquired about the location of his armies. I made up a little rhyme about it:
He had great self-esteem
And was a positive thinker,
But his thinking was not true,
You may think that I'm a stinker,
For I told him he was at Waterloo.
Thinking has to be based on reality and truth. You may be able to convince yourself the "E" on your gas gauge stands for "Enough," but your car is going to be much harder to convince.
Now, that's something to think about.
Charles Lowery is pastor of Hoffmantown Baptist Church, Albuquerque, N.M.