The human mind is a gift from God—and truly is a terrible thing to waste! How can you shape yours to better reflect your Creator’s?
How do you expect to be remembered? What would you like your reputation to be? Human infants think only of their own wants and needs. But as we grow into our teen years and beyond, we become more concerned about what others think of us—and rightly so. We read, “Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right” (Proverbs 20:11).
However, our reputation is not built by wishes. Rather, it is established by our actions and our words. The decisions we make—regarding what we do and say, what we laugh at, how we spend our time, and with whom we spend it—all reflect who we are. But what determines those decisions? How do we make them? Do we have any control over them?
You have heard people say, “Make up your mind.” Or you may sometimes try to “change someone’s mind.” So, how does the mind change, and how is it “made up” in the first place? There are three basic building blocks to it. The first is knowledge, the second is experience, and the third consists of our emotions or feelings.
As our bodies grow beyond infancy, we are changing in ways other than the physical. As we begin to crawl, walk, and then run, our minds are also changing. We are learning about the world around us and how we fit into it. As we grow, the people around us influence how our minds become “wired.” Our parents tell us that the sky is blue and that grass is green, so our minds form the concept of color. We learn that our neighbor is hungry and lost her job, and we see our parents bring her a bag of groceries—so we learn the concepts of compassion and empathy.
Parents playing their God-given role are key to our earliest growth. God knows this: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). God wants parents to guide their children into right ways of thinking by teaching them the principles of life; we see that He commanded the ancient Israelites to teach His ways to their children: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
However, parents are not the only ones who influence our minds. From our earliest childhood, we are influenced by friends and playmates, by teachers, and by the media. Our minds use the knowledge that we collect from these different sources to create ideas and impressions that help us understand our world and our place in it. We compare what we have heard and read with what we have experienced firsthand.
We eat a lemon and learn what “sour” is. From that point on, we understand what something “sour” will taste like. Perhaps a parent says, “Don’t touch the stove, it’s hot!” We hear the words—and, if we are compelled to experiment anyway, the experience of touching a hot stove will be seared into our mind from that day onward!
Our mind is also shaped by our emotions. God has placed in human minds the ability to experience a range of feelings that affect how we think. We learn what it feels like to be excited, frustrated, joyful, and angry. We learn to feel pleasure when our taste buds are tantalized by ice cream. We learn about anger when someone steals our valued possessions. And we learn about sadness when we are separated from friends and loved ones. All of these emotions—and how we exercise them in daily life—profoundly affect our mental development and emotional control.
As we transition from youth into adulthood, we begin to develop more independence. We begin to think for ourselves and make up our own minds. We decide what clothes to wear each day, how to spend our time, and which friends to spend time with. Those decisions reflect our ability to apply facts, experience, and even past emotions to current situations. As we grow and our parents see us exercise good judgment, they gain greater confidence in us and feel able to give us more independence and responsibility. If parents have done their job well and we have been receptive, we will emerge into adulthood with our minds trained to face new and different situations.
One vital lesson we learn is that we must be sure that the influences shaping our minds are coming from those who are of “like mind”—and who have our best interests at heart. As the prophet Amos wrote, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3).
Eventually, as adults, we face challenges that are bigger than what clothes to wear or what to do with our free time. We make decisions about career and marriage. We face decisions about our fundamental beliefs in God and the meaning of human life. We come to decisions about applying God’s law in our daily lives. And we may consider the importance of making a permanent commitment to God through baptism. How we handle these choices ultimately reflects the state of our minds.
If you desire to serve God with understanding and you feel that your mind is being opened to God’s plan for you, you should be mindful of the likelihood that God is calling you. As vital as the human mind is in our daily lives, those whom God calls will come to realize that without the Holy Spirit, the human mind by itself is not adequate for handling the challenges of Christian life.
From the beginning of human history, mankind has again and again demonstrated that the human mind by itself is not up to the challenge of establishing peace and prosperity on earth, and in fact is at odds with God. We can humanly manage many of the simple physical decisions we need to make, but for the biggest challenges, we absolutely need the mind of God—which is revealed to us through His word, the Holy Bible. The mind of God brings love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). These are all attributes that bring true happiness and contentment, and they are attributes of a mind that is in harmony with the mind of God. The sooner we can develop a mind in harmony with God’s word, the sooner we will develop a way of thinking that will lead to a good life.
Who you are, and what you do, is a direct result of what you put into your mind. What knowledge, experiences, and emotions fill your mind? Do you read and think about God’s words? Do you make decisions that let you experience the joy of living God’s way? Do you ask God to guide your thoughts and feelings, or are you like a puppet on the string of the passing human emotions that course through your mind? God knows our thoughts—after all, He created our capacity to think! If God is calling you, He wants you to have His Holy Spirit within you to help guide your mind. Contact one of our Regional Offices (listed on page 4 of this magazine) and you’ll find our representatives eager to talk further about baptism and Christian life.
Choose to be mindful of your mind.