It’s the thoughts that count

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions. 
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
Variations of this quotation have been attributed to a variety of quotable people over the years, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Gandhi to Margaret Thatcher. I first saw the quote on the wall of an east Texas high school when I sold education software some moons ago. 
I saw it more recently on the wall of my own children’s elementary school. 
There, the quote was ascribed to a southeastern U.S. supermarket chain founder, Frank Outlaw. And there I found it just as convicting as the first time I read it.
Part of me wishes it weren’t true, that I could simply watch my character or my destiny and be done with it. That I could focus on the big stuff and not sweat the small.
I wish I could forego the painstakingly difficult task of analyzing the seemingly endless onslaught of thoughts that streak on autopilot through my skull. 
Unfortunately or otherwise, that’s not reality.
A great myth is that we humans can have multiple realities: a thought life disconnected from a talk life disconnected from a public life. A similar lie is that behavior can be divorced from beliefs.
This conversation brings to mind the biblical instruction to take every thought captive. It also points to Jesus’ “sermon on the mount.” 
On that hillside, Jesus basically said the key to keeping the great commandments is to keep your thoughts in line. To avoid murder, watch your anger. To avoid an affair, watch your lust.
The problem is we want to have our cake and eat it, too. We want both sizable savings and the trappings they can buy. 
So we try to keep in Vegas what happens in Vegas only to find out the thoughts of Sin City become the character of Anytown, USA. The action of Hollywood becomes the habits of the heartland.
An Andy Griffith episode paints the picture: A film producer came to Mayberry to scout the town as the possible setting of a motion picture about small town American life. 
Once the town caught wind of the plans, every store and personality put on airs to impress the producer. “Cary Grant haircuts…only $3” one sign read.
Old men who hadn’t worn a suit in decades got dapper. Old women become Hepburn wannabes. By the time the producer returned with his film crew, he’s wasn’t interested in what Mayberry had become.
In a socially mediated world, watching one’s thoughts is arguably more difficult than ever. On the flip side, it can be freeing that we have found the root of both our maladies and our triumphs. 
Much of life is about trajectory. A slight angle change can exponentially alter the destination. Simple thoughts really can change your destiny.
Kevin Thompson is a columnist for The Boerne Star near San Antonio. He can be reached at  

1 Response to “It’s the thoughts that count”

  1. 1 jessestroup March 28, 2016 at 11:35

    Kevin,  That one cuts to the core.  I needed that one.  An elder at the Man Cave Gathering said he cried out for God to clean my imagination, and He did. Keep reminding me.  Many will be blessed by reading this article.Thank you,Jesse  Jesse R. Stroup Director of Spiritual Care Lifeline Chaplaincy 1926 Chattanooga Pl. #B Dallas, TX 75235

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