The choice of thoughts
In any given situation, there’s a variety of internal responses to choose from.I recently went through a situation that offered me three choices:
A friend called me and insisted that I come on a trip with 500 youth and ‘inspire’ them with my lectures. I politely declined, but not one to give up easily, he persuaded me to come. I too stuck to my stand, saying that I had many pressing services during that period. Eventually, he offered to book me three years in advance for a pilgrimage in 2020. I gently refused to commit to this as well. Finally, he relented and hung up, wishing me all the best in my various services. As I hung up, I had a choice on how I rewound and analysed the phone conversation.
‘My dear Lord, I am grateful to you for giving me so much love through this friend. I feel so worthy and respected. Although I have made such terrible mistakes, and you know them well, yet you have kindly arranged devotees to shower me with so much love and affection. To know that I can inspire and serve others is very hope-giving. I pray to you, oh Lord, please let me serve these devotees sincerely and selflessly.’
‘Now, at last he knows my worth. He needs me so badly, and he’s the one who, a few years ago, had humiliated me in public. Now he has been humbled. I am popular and am needed by him for help. He was helpless today and that serves him right.’
‘Nobody loves me. Everyone is selfish. He too called me only because he wanted me to serve on the trip. He doesn’t really care for me. If he really loved me, he’d have called me at other times as well. I am so lonely and unloved in this family.’
These three different perceptions would give rise to different feelings. If I had cultivated the first thought process, I’d feel humble and remain grounded even in success. I’d also feel abundant love in my heart and would be able to serve others happily.
The second thought process would have only inflated my false pride and I’d become a bigger egomaniac than I already am. The result? More harmful passion and one-upmanship that benefits none. Also I’d feel a vacuum in the heart and agitation in the mind.
The third way of thinking would have led me to depression. I would have been totally blind to the love that was coming my way. I would have had a screwed-up definition of love in my head, and now, even when love was clearly coming my way, I can’t recognize it because it doesn’t fit my definition of love. And all this because I had cultivated an unhealthy thought pattern.
Our choices in life are clear—think rightly and feel rightly. Of course, sometimes we do get swayed by intense feelings. But rather than getting bogged down, we can easily transform them into a thoughtful prayer and connect to God’s grace. That way even amid painful feelings, we can change our thoughts and eventually fill our heart with divine feelings that will only make us stronger and happier.