Guard Against Unkind Thoughts
“HAVE you ever heard such expressions as: “Don’t believe a word of it!” or, “Who does she think she is?” or, “That’s not so wonderful. I could have done better myself”? No doubt all of us have, and yet how much better it would be if such things went unsaid! Or, better than that, if one did not even have such unkind thoughts!
What causes some to have unkind thoughts about others? Well, another person may be getting undue attention, or may be receiving high praise. Or it could be that another may betray an eagerness for attention and praise. So it may be that in one’s reaction to the situation a tinge of envy is involved.
The Bible contains much fine admonition to safeguard us against such unloving traits. It counsels us to restrain our tongues, but it also shows the need to guard our thoughts. Even if not expressed in words, unkind thoughts, nevertheless, can do harm. They tend to deteriorate relations with others. They may also do harm to the one that thinks them. This is because that which affects the mind also affects the body.
Among the unkind thoughts that we ought to guard against are those that show undue suspicion. Why? Well, consider an example. The Bible tells of the unwarranted suspicions of the princes of a people known as Ammonites. This people, although frequently attacking the Israelites, had never been attacked by them, for Israel had received specific instructions from Jehovah God not to do so. (Deut. 2:19) Yet when King David of Jerusalem sent messengers to convey his sympathy to them, because of the death of their king, those princes accused the messengers of being spies and greatly humiliated them. Their suspicions even caused them to bribe a neighboring nation to join them in war against Israel. In the end they paid for their unwarranted suspicions by being defeated and becoming subject to Israel. We can learn from their experience.—1 Chron. 19:1 to 20:3.
In dealing with friends, relatives, close associates and, in particular, with fellow Christians, it is better to trust others. Even if problems arise, give them the benefit of the doubt. It is better to be disappointed occasionally than to be unduly suspicious, as though everyone were ready to take advantage of you. Many husbands and wives make their lives unhappy because of being unduly suspicious of each other. How much happier their marriage would be if they made it a point to think of each other in a kindly way!
Especially as regards our view of the motives of other people should we be on guard against having unkind thoughts. Do not forget that it was the Devil himself who first charged others with selfish motives, doing so without justification. He began his wicked course by thinking unkind thoughts about God, which resulted in his slandering the Creator. (Gen. 3:1-5) Later he called into question the motives of all God’s servants. To what has this led? He does all he can to prove his suspicions true. And that, let it be noted, is another reason for not being unduly suspicious; there is always the danger of trying to prove one’s suspicions true, and thus making oneself the adversary of others.—Rev. 12:10.
Unkind thoughts also result from being too critical, expecting too much of others. It is good to realize that what may seem small and insignificant to us may represent a great victory or achievement on the part of another. In homes where there is a “generation gap,” is it not largely due to parents being too critical of their children, and children being too critical of their parents? They could well learn from the Turkish proverb: “He who seeks a friend without a fault will be without one.”
Especially is there need for travelers to be on guard against unkind, unduly critical thoughts when they visit foreign lands. Strange sights and customs may well cause one to compare unfavorably what one sees with conditions in one’s own land. Instead, would it not be better to exercise empathy, putting oneself in the shoes of others, as it were? Doing so, one will be able to make allowances, recognizing to what extent the people are the victims of circumstances. Rightly viewed, one can sincerely admire them for what they are able to accomplish under existing conditions.
Learn to enjoy what others do by noting their good points instead of being overly conscious of their shortcomings. Do not be like the foolish person who, noting a speaker’s repetition of a certain expression, kept counting how many times the speaker used it. How much more he would have benefited from the talk if he had concentrated on the arguments presented and appreciated the speaker’s sincerity!
So, for your own sake and in the interest of good relations with other people, guard against unkind thoughts. Instead, heed the inspired counsel: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are . . . lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.”—Phil. 4:8.