What Is the Spirit of a Sound Mind?
OFTENTIMES you will hear people caution, “Now, use the spirit of a sound mind.” It may be that this counsel is given to a person departing on a long trip. Or perhaps a particularly hazardous or touchy situation has arisen in which emotions could easily erupt into violent behavior. In such circumstances there is certainly a need to exercise the spirit of a sound mind.
What is generally meant by this expression is to use good judgment; be reasonable; do not take foolish chances or act rashly. Of course, this is good counsel. However, in a given situation, what individuals consider to be good judgment or a reasonable course of action often varies a great deal. So how is one to determine what actually is the spirit of a sound mind?
Unfortunately no one is born with a truly sound mind. To the contrary, as the faithful Bible writer David acknowledged: “With error I was brought forth with birth pains, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Due to inherited sin, the Christian apostle Paul explained that “there is not a righteous man [one who is sinless and therefore perfectly sound in mind and body], not even one.” And rather than association with this system of things contributing toward soundness of mind, the Bible says: “The god of this system of things [Satan the Devil] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” By blinding the minds of people to the truth about God and his purposes, Satan has kept them in a state of mental unbalance.—Ps. 51:5; Rom. 3:10; 2 Cor. 4:4.
But despite the disabilities of inherited imperfection and the influence of an unrighteous world, God has made it possible for people to exercise the spirit of a sound mind. “For God gave us not a spirit of cowardice,” his Word explains, “but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7) But how is it that God imparts soundness of mind to his people?
It is through his inspired Word the Holy Bible that Almighty God communicates his thoughts to man. This Word contains His perfect standard of truth and righteousness, and so it is through its pages that one becomes acquainted with the perfect mind of God, which is sound. Consequently, to whatever extent a person is able to set aside his own mind, or judgments, and accept the direction of the mind of God on matters, to that extent he will have the spirit or disposition of a sound mind.
This does not mean that one’s brains undergo some sort of change, but, rather, that under the operation of God’s spirit a person gradually learns to rectify the errors of his own judgment in respect to the various questions that may arise. He begins to make decisions and to act in harmony with the teachings of God’s Word, which is an expression of the perfect mind of God. This brings about a change in his life, as is explained in Romans 12:2: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
So it is by adjusting one’s thinking to harmonize with the perfect standard, which is God’s mind as it is expressed in the Bible and in the life of Jesus Christ, that an imperfect human can exercise soundness of mind. To illustrate: Suppose we had a clock that was a poor timekeeper and was without means of regulation. But suppose also that we had access frequently to a chronometer of absolute correctness, which showed us that our clock lost thirty minutes every twenty-four hours. We could now learn to correct our clock by resetting it from time to time. Moreover, we could learn also how to estimate its error at any point in the day.
Likewise it is with our judgment in the various matters and affairs of our life. When we measure it with the perfect standard, we find that we are either too fast or too slow, too weak or too strong, in our mental and physical emotions. And while we are not able to match the perfect example of Jesus Christ, nevertheless we are enabled to regulate our thoughts and judgments so that they conform to the perfect standard to a remarkable degree.
Therefore, a Christian exercises the spirit of a sound mind by determining what the Scriptural evidence indicates is the proper decision to make, or course of action to take. He asks himself: “What would Christ have done in a similar situation? Is there any Bible principle that governs in this matter?” He then goes to Jehovah God in prayer and asks his blessing on the course of action determined upon as a result of consulting his Word. This is the way to exercise the spirit of a truly sound mind.
Since the majority of people do not use the perfect chronometer, God’s Word, to govern their lives, it is not surprising that what they consider to be exercising the spirit of a sound mind differs a great deal. For example, when a law was issued in ancient Persia, proclaiming that prayer to anyone except the king would be a crime punishable by death in the lions’ den, many probably reasoned that it would be using the spirit of a sound mind to refrain from praying to God until the restriction was lifted. But the faithful Hebrew Daniel did not reason this way. He let God’s Word govern his actions, and continued to pray to Jehovah. Contrary to what the majority may have thought, this was exercising the spirit of a sound mind. Jehovah was pleased with Daniel’s faithfulness and protected him.—Dan. 6:4-28.
So rather than be influenced by what other imperfect humans may think or what seems to be the reasonable thing to do in one’s own eyes, look to Jehovah God and his Word for direction. Heed the counsel of the inspired Bible proverb: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him.” By so doing, you will be exercising the spirit of a sound mind.—Prov. 3:5, 6.