Are you a Christian who is struggling with thinking negative thoughts about someone?
I’m not talking about the occasional criticism, I’m talking about a constant internal dialog of complaints and judgments. As much as you want to, you just can’t stop thinking negative about this person. You’ve tried finding the good. You’ve tried reminding yourself that God loves them so you should too. But the first (and perhaps only) thing that pops into your head about this person is negative.
I remember years ago, I worked with this guy who was very charismatic and on the outside he seemed like such a nice friendly person. But since we worked together so much, I was able to see the cracks in the foundation that he was able to hide from others.
I saw the phoniness. I experienced the lies. I witnessed firsthand how this person would manipulate others with his “woe is me” attitude, when in reality, this guy had no interest in anyone but himself.
After years of this negative impact, I found myself having nothing but negative thoughts towards him. Even his laugh would make me cringe. The phony smile he showed to my face and blatant disregard he displayed behind my back made me want to launch a full verbal assault.
Any time anyone spoke positively about him, my thoughts would spiral. It got so bad, that I remember saying to myself, “I’m a Christian, I’m not supposed to be thinking this way.”
Maybe you’re like me and you have negative feelings about someone who has hurt, harmed or just flat out annoyed you. You won’t act on those feelings (intentionally) but you think them in your mind. You repeatedly re-run your conversations with this person. You think about all the ways they have wronged you. You get infuriated at the thought of others being fooled by them.
You replay what you shoulda, coulda, and woulda said—if you weren’t such a good Christian.
But scripture tells us that if it’s taking place in our mind, it’s as good as done. Ouch. It’s not enough to not take action, we’re called to take control of those thoughts. And with good reason, as everything begins in the mind.
If we contemplate or ruminate on something long enough, it’s only a matter of time before that internal attitude gets displayed externally. This may be done intentionally because you have become so infuriated in your mind that you can’t take it anymore, or it slips out in covert passive aggressive behavior.
Either way, your thoughts will run your life. And I know you are a person of purpose. There is nothing that the enemy likes to use more than your thoughts AND other people to distract you from your destiny.
But since that toxic thought pattern in not only displeasing to God but also literally bad for your health, you have to stop thinking toxic thoughts about this person.
Here are 3 principles to follow in order to stop the spiral.
#1. Do an honest evaluation.
Most people want to be seen as good people who see the good in others. So when your mind in bombarded with negative thoughts about someone, you quickly try to dismiss it and find the good. And when you fail to do that well, you are left feeling like a bad person. That’s because the notion of simply ‘finding the good’ can be foolish and ignorant. If a thief were trying to break into your house, would you tell yourself to ‘find the good’ in him?
Instead of simply trying to ignore or whitewash your toxic thoughts, Do a healthy, honest evaluation. Matthew 10:16 reminds us of what Jesus said to us: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
Do an honest evaluation of what are you dealing with and how you want to handle it. Telling yourself to stop thinking negatively about an abusive, annoying, or otherwise toxic person is like sticking your head in the sand and hoping they change.
You would also do well to be honest with yourself about how YOU feel and what YOU want the relationship to look like. We often ruminate over negative thoughts because we feel helpless, like there’s nothing we can do about it. But that’s not true. There’s typically always something you can do, even if it’s simply putting up better boundaries. Ignoring reality and pretending to think good about this person will likely only perpetuate the evil that could be taking place.
#2. Find your triggers.
Have you ever noticed that there are people who bring out the best in you and others who seem to trigger the worst in you? God uses people to refine us.
Perhaps you have a friend who triggers your insecurity with her passive aggressive, backhanded compliments. Or perhaps when someone cuts you off in conversation, you feel the rush of rejection from your past all over again. Many interactions can trigger old wounds that likely go much deeper than the behaviors of this toxic person.
God uses those people to reveal what’s in us. If you will allow God to show you where your weaknesses lie, then you can begin to shift the focus away from others and onto your transformation. Besides Matthew 7:5 does remind us to take the log out of our own eye instead of focusing on the speck in someone else’s. Let God do a work in you and leave it to God to do a work in them.
#3. Change the channel.
When watching TV, are you the type who tortures themselves by watching a show you hate? It’s doubtful. We live in a time where there are more channels to chose from than ever before. If you’re like most people, you will change the channel and keep on changing it until you find something you enjoy. The same thing is true in our minds. Ask yourself, is this really the conversation you want to hold in your mind everyday? Do you really WANT to think about this person, AT ALL?
No, just telling yourself to ‘stop’ thinking a certain way, isn’t going to work. That’s like thinking you can stop an oncoming train with your own mind. Instead of trying to turn off the television playing in your head, simply change the channel. Think about something else, something more life giving, more freeing, more enjoyable, and in doing so, watch how your outlooks and mannerisms shift as well.
If this person is as toxic as you believe they are, are they really worth giving that much mental energy to? Trust me, that person likely isn’t spending that mental energy thinking about you.
My friend, it is possible to get your peace back. God gave us the ability to control the thoughts that permeate our minds.
If none of these qualities exist in the person you’re struggling with, then there’s nothing there to think about. Honestly evaluate the relationship, heal what’s triggering you, and change the channel in your mind. You will be much happier as a result.
Wondering just how toxic your thoughts are? Take the quiz here.