Rule #1: Shut Out the Noise

torah-scrollLast Saturday, I shared some observations on a fluffy article called “Ten Rules Fit People Live By.” My main point was that these rules were basically platitudes without nearly enough meat on their bones to be terribly helpful. After leveling that criticism, it occurred to me that perhaps I should examine each of the rules in turn, subjecting it to the light of Biblical teaching.

The first rule, shared by a personal trainer named Joel Harper, is Shut out the noise. Here’s how the author explains that.

By “noise,” Harper means the constant stream of negative thoughts that runs through most people’s minds. That mental static is your biggest obstacle, he says; learning to filter it by focusing on positive thinking is essential to your success.

Why am I hearing Michael Sutherland in Kelly’s Heroes here? “Always with the negative waves, Moriarty!”

So what does the Bible say about negative waves? According to my research, it doesn’t say a great deal about what we need to eliminate. Instead, it says more about what we should think.

Although I am taking the following parable out of context, it seems relevant here. Look at what Jesus says in Luke 11:24-26 about what happens when a demon is cast out:

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

It’s not enough to simply get the bad stuff–demons or “negative waves”–out of our lives. Instead, we need to replace that bad stuff with something good. Nature abhors a vacuum.

Paul, in Philippians 4:6-9, seems to be arguing that we should not just eliminate the negative waves but replace them with positive waves.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Rule #1 is reasonable as far as it goes. If you’re telling yourself something negative–“I can’t lose weight” or “I can’t make it up this hill” or “I’ll never be able to stop eating these cupcakes”–then bad things will probably flow from that thought. But it’s unrealistic to think that you can just magically banish the negative thoughts from your mind. What happens, when you’re trying to cut down on eating, if you say, “I won’t think about food.” You think about nothing but food, right?

So how do you stop thinking about food? You don’t just banish food thought from your consciousness. Instead, you need to replace food thought with something else. You’ve undoubtedly noticed that when you keep busy you don’t seem to get hungry as quickly, right?

Shutting out the noise is a good step, but replacing the noise with a positive, God-focused signal is an even better step.