Friday Book Pick: Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica
If you were asked the question, “What determines the quality of a life?” What would your answer be? I imagine you could form a short list without effort. No doubt you would include: education, financial security, good health, close family relationships, a good moral foundation, and virtue. And if you are a Catholic, your list would include a Sacramental life, adequate time to pray, and service to others. Most people would agree that a life made up with all of those things, or even most of them, would be rich and full and satisfying. However, I do not think Elder Thaddeus would agree with us. According to him, it is our thinking that counts. Our rational (or perhaps our irrational) cognitive activity determines our lives. The title of this Friday Book Pick says it all. Elder Thaddeus’ message is encapsulated perfectly in its five-word title. Our thoughts determine our lives. “All things here on this earth,” said Elder Thaddeus, “all that is good and also all that is not, everything comes from our thoughts. Our thoughts determine our whole life.”
If you pause and consider his thesis, you will quickly realize how true it is that your thought life has the power to undermine every item on your quality-of-life list. You might have an above average I.Q. and an ivy league education to go with it, but if you are stuck in a thought pattern of inferiority and inadequacy, you will not be able to enjoy and utilize the gift you have been given. You may have a big family and many friends but if you are constantly comparing your relationships to others, or entertaining jealous or judgmental thoughts toward your loved ones, your potential happiness will be sabotaged by your thinking.
How much do you think about your thoughts? Or, put differently, how aware are you of your interior life? What is going on in your mind during your commute to work? During meetings? In the elevator? Do you have radio static in your mind or do your thoughts run wild like untrained puppies? Does your mind race when you try to pray; does it chase butterflies when you try to read at length or with depth; or, do your thought patterns get stuck on “repeat” when you try to go to sleep at night? Do you have conversations (real or imagined) on a play list looping though your brain? The mind is a fascinating thing. Elder Thaddeus is not alone in the conviction that as your thoughts go, so go your emotions, so go your actions, so goes your life.
Our minds are like our own personal computer, entertainment center, moral compass, emotional command center, history book and life coach all rolled into one. But the key word is own—your mind is your own. It is within your power to train your mind—to discipline your thinking. According to Elder Thaddeus, if you want to be happy in this life, you ought to make an effort to learn how to do that.
“If our thoughts are destructive, we will have no peace. If they are quiet, meek and simple, our life will be the same, we will have peace within us.”
The first step in mastering one’s thoughts is simply being aware of them. It is one thing to think about something and another thing to be conscious of yourself thinking the thought. Once we grow in awareness we can measure the thought against the truth. Further, we can take action by either rejecting the thought as untrue—discarding it like mental litter—or, we can accept the thought as true and good and so cultivate it. With the help of the Holy Spirit, this is possible.
A further important consideration is that the reach of our thoughts is beyond ourselves. “If our thoughts are kind, peaceful, and quiet, turned only toward good, then we will also influence ourselves and radiate peace all around us—in our whole family, in the whole country, everywhere” writes Elder Thaddeus. And there is not one of us who does not desire that kind peace!
I hope you will add this to your spiritual reading book list. The effort you take to reign in your thoughts (with the help of the Holy Spirit Who will come to your assistance), promises to deeply affect every area of your life for the better!