I read online that the average person has more than sixty thousand thoughts per day, and over 80 percent of these thoughts are negative. Is that accurate? I don’t know. Honestly, the website seemed sketchy. And I’m no expert in the science of the subconscious. The other day I saw an R.E.M. anthology called Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage. That pretty much sums up my understanding of the way the human mind works. And I don’t want this to turn into a Wikipedia article about neuroscience.
But let’s think together about the possibility that 80 percent of our thoughts are not only devoid of any power to help us but actively work against us. When we allow our thoughts to go unchecked, a steady drip of lies cements the wrong patterns within our minds, building a Berlin Wall of bad beliefs.
Ignore Furtick’s attempted disclaimer that he’s not sure whether this is true. He chose to include it in his book, and then invited us to think about it, which he does for the remainder of the chapter. More than that, the entire book is predicated on this idea — that the negative thoughts bombard us with unhelpful chatter, so we need to eliminate them by crashing the chatterbox. This isn’t a slip of the tongue or a throwaway idea. It matters, and it matters where he got this idea from.
Furtick believes that our negative thoughts are not only without value, but harmful. My days are full of quite helpful negative thoughts that go something like this:
- If I drive on the wrong side of the road, people will get hurt.
- If I don’t show up at work, I’ll lose my job.
- If I don’t wear deodorant, I’ll smell bad.
- Don’t put the paperclip in the electrical outlet.
- If I start playing that video game, I’ll waste two good hours.
- Don’t run with scissors.
Rather than harming me, negative thoughts protect me by reminding me of my real and irreversible inadequacies and the harm that can come to me and others. It’s called discipline, and it’s something all mature adults practice.
Babies, on the other hand, don’t think enough protective negative thoughts, and parents work hard to fill their mind with them. Babies need to know that rolling off the sofa will hurt, that grabbing the dog’s ear won’t be as much fun as it looks, and that not everything is edible.
The Bible itself is full of negative thoughts because it’s full of truth. If you took all the negative thoughts out of Job, Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, you’d have almost nothing left. Nine of the Ten Commandments are presented in negative or prohibitive language.
Grownups know that negative thoughts are essential, and sometimes even more helpful than positive thoughts. That we should seek to eliminate them is childish and silly. Who, besides Steven Furtick, would think that?
I found out.
Furtick makes the intriguing admission that he found the information about negative thinking on a “sketchy” website, so with the help of Google, I went searching for the source of his inspiration.
Not surprisingly, the 60,000 thoughts study seems to be entirely mythical. Every article that references it does so third hand without actual attribution, as Furtick himself has done here. Not that it matters, because its findings so neatly support the thesis that we’re all being crushed by these awful negative thoughts. As Pastor Furtick demonstrates here, and Clayton King before him, the truth of a story or claim isn’t nearly as important as its usefulness.
Because it’s a mythical study, references to it range from the 40 thousands to the mid 60s, so I looked for articles in that range as well as for ones that cited the 80 percent figure. Here’s the first one I found, from a site advocating the thinking of Deepak Chopra and giving advice on how to improve yourself physically and emotionally.
Have you ever heard of self-talk? It is a term used to describe inwardly directed thoughts and words. People talk to themselves either out loud or subconsciously at the rate of 150 to 300 words per minute. This adds up to as many as 50,000 thoughts per day that we direct toward ourselves. We rarely become aware of self-talk during our day-to-day living, and it affects our perceptions, choices and reactions. Negative self-talk can hold you back from finding and fulfilling your purpose in life. It affects how you interact and react with others. By becoming aware of this chatter, you can make significant changes in your life and body. How much of this talk do you hear on a conscious level? What are you saying to yourself right now? Is it negative?
Notice any familiar language in there? “By becoming aware of this chatter, you can make significant changes in your life.”
Pushing further into sketchiness, we find the Queen of Manifestation, who perfectly matches Furtick’s 60,000/80 percent claim. Here’s her interpretation of the “study”:
Well did you know that according to scientists, we have over 60,000 thoughts per day.
And what’s even more striking is that for the majority of us, 80% of those thoughts are negative!
The things that you tell yourself can have a big affect on what’s showing up in your life.
Simple common expressions that we use all the time when we’re talking to our friends and families, and especially to ourselves can either be destructive or instrumental in shaping our reality.
If our thoughts create our reality, we want to have positive ones!
It sounds like a blurb from the Furtick book. Seriously, how would you know the difference?
Speaking of differences, let me throw a few other quotes at you. I’ll put the source in the link on the last word, but before you click it, see if you can tell the difference between Pastor Furtick, Buddists, Transcendental Meditators and other prosperity crackpots. Out of the 32 statements, 16 are from the Chatterbox. Can you distinguish between the lessons from tinybuddha.com, for example, and the lessons from Pastor Furtick?
When you change your confession it changes your direction.
You. Are. Not Your. Mind. Your mind is just a tool for you to use.
You could try and figure out where your negative thoughts come from—but since they’re just based on faulty beliefs, why not just ignore them?
When lies are not confronted, callings are not fulfilled.
Learning to ignore the voice inside our head telling us we’re not good enough, not worthy of love, and so on is what we’re here to do.
The thing that makes deception so effective is that you can’t detect it.
Ask yourself: Is this belief hurting or helping me? Is it getting me closer to what I want or further away? Is it empowering me to take action or freezing me with fear and self-doubt?
Shift the balance of mundane thoughts to creative powerful ones.
That is a lot of internal chatter. The good news is, our thoughts are ours to control, or not.
It’s a voice that drones on and on, always intimidating, always insinuating.
The voices we give credibility to in our lives will determine whether or not we fulfill our calling.
Seek out positive, upbeat people and try to spend time with them. Avoid the whiners and complainers and naysayers.
Choosing to believe this, moment by moment, and acting on it is the most important habit you will ever develop.
You don’t have to reinvent your life overnight — just make some steps toward your destination.
Don’t let yourself feel frustrated about those negative thoughts showing up again, that is just more default thinking. Just let them go, and purposefully replace them with affirming and optimistic thoughts.
Instead of saying, “I can’t.” Ask “How Can I?”
Watch your thoughts– they are blueprints for actions. A great deal of what we see depends on what we’re looking for.
Tune in to the right voice!
It is important that we review our thoughts each day. Many of us are not aware of how much we actually think or how negative our attitudes might be. We must not let our thoughts take charge of us.
What great deeds are in danger of remaining undone because of lies that were planted in your past or fears that are looming in your future?
The Resistance [is] the force that prevents us from getting the things done we’re meant to do.
We’re in control of what thoughts we allow to dominate our minds. It might not feel like that all the time, but we are.
When we allow our thoughts to go unchecked, a steady drip of lies cements the wrong patterns within our mind.
I’ve got this ceaseless war going on inside my heart and my head.
How are the people closest to you … suffering because of the lies you believe?
What effect would it have on our own lives and those closest to us if our outlook was positive instead of negative?
Don’t get frustrated when a negative thought pops up. Just try to shift it right away. Soon more and more positive thoughts will replace the old patterns of negativity.
The voice you believe will determine the future you experience.
The good news is, if you can recognize a negative or limiting thought, you can consciously choose to change it.
This isn’t something I did once and now it’s over or something I can afford to do occasionally when it’s convenient. It requires constancy.
Some thoughts – like that nagging voice that says you are not good enough or smart enough to succeed -simply aren’t true and reflect our own self doubt.
I felt so often like I was drowning in in internal dialog I couldn’t control.
That’s a long list, but it illustrates two things. First, just how banal and tired the whole idea is. Why pay money for Steven Furtick’s book when a well-aimed Google search can get you the same thing for free? Second, it shows that the kinds of people who think the idea has merit are generally hucksters and New Age spiritualists. And Steven Furtick, though Furtick does clothe the idea with a few verses from the Bible.
You might object that this is guilt by association, but sometimes people really are guilty of that. Furtick acknowledges that he got his basic idea from these people, though he didn’t see fit to tell you exactly who those people were. What is a pastor doing hanging out and getting inspired by these philosophies that even he recognizes as sketchy?
Their advice is poor, and to the extent that Furtick parrots them, so is his. Even in the moments that Furtick offers something supposedly Christian, he creates fantasies out of his mind, not out of Scripture. Here’s an example of one that he thought was so wonderful it warranted its own graphic:
God’s purpose is to raise us up, not to beat us down.
There’s an element of truth to this, but it depends who you are. If you are Christ’s, it’s true. If you’re not, it really isn’t, and to be falsely assured that you’re on God’s good side is spiritually dangerous. Ananias and Sapphira, whom God killed for lying, would have wanted Furtick’s advice to be true.
Pastor Furtick not only offers clearly false, yet hopeful, fortune cookie assurances about God, he sells it and profits handsomely from it. He’s a professional preacher, yet he ignores God’s Word and just makes stuff up.
Ask yourself whether you’d pick a physician who thought he knew better than what he learned at medical school? Who’d rather not tell you that you had a disease, but instead tells you you’ll enjoy good health forever. We call such doctors quacks, and most of us try hard to identify and avoid them. Shouldn’t we be just as careful in avoiding pastors who adulterate their teachings with pagan philosophies and who won’t preach God’s Word clearly and carefully?
We should be careful, because finding the right pastor and preacher matters so much more than finding a good doctor.
If you find the wrong doctor, you might die early.
If you find the wrong preacher, you might die forever.