Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Do not Feed the Bears"

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

When trying to cope with bad thoughts an important thing to remember is this:


This is critical.

The last thing you want to do is feed those snarling, ugly "bear" thoughts prowling through your head. No, we want to starve them not feed them. I guarantee that if they are fed they will consume far more than you think. Feed them and they'll hang around wanting more. Starve them and they'll go quietly. Well, maybe after a few growls for effect. But if you don't feed them they are all bark, no bite. They eventually go.

When I was young I fed the bears generously each day and pretty soon they grew fat and healthy and consumed almost everything, including most of my joy. Worse than that, they multiply when well fed. I mean let's face it, it's pretty hard to feel joyous when joyless thoughts are prowling through your head constantly.

And peace?

Forget about it. I had none. Or very little, at least.

And I lived this way for years. How I managed I'll never know.

But I DID learn eventually.

In my last post I brought up looking for the underlying issue that may be exacerbating the toxic thoughts, in this one I am addressing the thinking itself. If you feed or give weight to the thoughts they get worse. You don't want to AGREE with the thoughts in any way, shape or form. They are not worthy of your worry and certainly not worth losing your peace over. Thoughts are not sinful unless the will gets involved. Random "thought bombs", as aggravating as they might be, are not sinful. That is, they are not sinful unless you choose to make them so. (Note for the scrupulous - noticing the thoughts are there does not mean you are agreeing with them.) It's interesting to note that many great saints had to deal with blasphemous thoughts, sometimes barrages of them, and yet stayed peaceful, such was their humility.

 An example would be: if you are bombarded with angry thoughts, don't give your consent to them. Don't let the thoughts have any power over you. In reality, they don't - you are in charge and you decide whether or not to give these thoughts weight.

Have you ever noticed that when you dwell on angry thoughts your anger increases?

This is what I mean.

Do not feed the bears.

I can't get over how many people believe they have committed the unpardonable sin, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, because satan dropped a random "thought bomb" or two about the Holy Spirit into their heads. It's one of the most common questions I find in the keywords of this blog. This is NOT blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. (Truth is - I fell for this one when I was young too. Many do, which is probably why satan loves this particular thought bomb. Even Billy Graham fell for it as a young man.)

The difference between a few bad "thought bombs" (or a barrage of them) and the pattern of thinking I mentioned in my previous post is that praising God will usually get rid of the first fairly easily but the second tends to come back because the underlying problem hasn't been taken care of.

Ignoring "thought bombs" is good and often recommended.

You can also offer it up in reparation for sin.  I like this one.

I mean, you gotta hand it to the Catholic Church - nothing is ever wasted, is it?  (Grin)

Helpful tips for those under siege:
~ Praise helps
~ If you offer it up, once during a barrage is sufficient. (You don't want to give it too much attention.           Focus on the good, not the bad.)
~ You can also ignore it.
~ Go do something that requires your full attention. Often this is enough to do the trick.
~ Don't worry about it - you don't want to give it extra weight. There are other things more worthy
    of our attention.


  1. This makes a lot of sense. Everyone gets random thoughts seemingly from nowhere. Some are fleetingly and go away quickly, others linger on and invite new thoughts. I believe Jesus said that it is not what gets into man (thougths) that is bad; but what comes out of man (actions - evil ones).

    Our challenge is to fight these thoughts and not let them either linger on, or turn into action. The best help, as you so rightly say, is to praise God. We're not praising Him FOR the bad thoughts; but for being in control and helping us overcome them.

    Excellent writing once again Mary. Thank you.

    God bless.

  2. Come now. Not all bears are bad and deserve to be starved to death.

    1. They do during Lent ;) Especially the ones who place juicy steaks on their blogs on Fridays. (Or was it Ash Wednesday?)

      Good one though! Glad it was you and not PETA pretending to be a bear.

  3. Thanks for commenting, Victor. Some "thought bombs" freak people out by their very nature - every week I get keywords along the lines of "I think I blasphemed the Holy Spirit" or "Does having a bad thought about the Holy Spirit mean I committed the unforgivable sin?" I've even seen "I accidentally blasphemed the Holy Spirit" - as soon as I read this one I knew it was probably someone who had a thought bomb dropped on them. I admit the "accidentally" made me smile a bit since true blasphemy is very much on purpose but I still felt bad for the person.

    1. Thanx Mary. We need to discuss blaspheming against the Holy Spirit some time. It isn't what many people think it is.

      God bless you.

  4. Mary, I love the way your mind works! Thought Bombs! Exactly described! Thank you!

    1. It was the most fitting word I could come up Have a blessed Holy Week, Mallory!

  5. Dear Mary, thank you so much for this very timely post as I engage in a full out battle with satan-enhanced negativity. Your suggestions are great! God bless you with a grace-filled Holy Week!

    1. Hi Anne,
      "Satan-enhanced negativity" is a good way to put it. We all battle with this at times. Glad you found the post helpful! I hope your Holy Week is grace-filled too!

  6. Thank you for these tips, Mary.

    Time to go set up some Bear Traps ...

    God Bless.

    1. Lol...I should probably do this too. Especially this week!

  7. Mary, I can relate to this and your previous post very much. I have been struggling with this specifically in regard to a "friendship" I have been having difficulty maintaining because of the negativity this person has been exuding. I found that my every thought was being consumed and the thoughts were angry and toxic. I have begun to turn it to prayer for this person, which has helped some. I have also distanced myself a bit from her since I feel the relationship has become toxic as well.
    Thanks for sharing these posts with us.

  8. Hi Karin,
    So you've noticed negativity can be like a virus? I've noticed this too. The stuff is catchy if we don't watch out. Funny how a joyous person can lift our spirits so quickly while some others do the opposite.

    Thanks for commenting!

  9. Great article.
    My spiritual director told me to make new tapes. We need to "record" over those old tapes with those negative thoughts, those "bear" thoughts!

  10. That's a great idea, Colleen! According to an article I read (I think it was either on RC Spiritual Direction or Catholic Exchange) that's what we are supposed to do. Thanks for commenting!

  11. Excellent post and very thought-provoking!

    I think sometimes we have to move through difficult thoughts to come out on the other side as spiritually mature people, yet for certain thoughts that are more like whining and aren't truthful it is best to replace them with healthier thoughts and not 'feed' them with a continuous frown.

    1. Hi Jade! You bring up a good point here about spiritual maturation. As we grow spiritually it becomes easier to "weed" through thoughts, holding on to what is good. Our discernment grows.

      Lol, I still struggle with those "whining" thoughts you mention though :)

  12. Hi Mary! Phew. I am so glad that these thoughts are not deemed sinful. I was a little worried after your last post. I love the idea of 'don't feed the bears'. It's a great visual!

    It seems like my vulnerable time is when I wake up in the morning. I am reminded of the words 'morning demons' that our ancient fathers would use. Just turning my head away from this kind of chatter is a great thing to remember. On with the day in the grace of God meant for me.
    Such an encouraging post. Thank you!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thoughts that simply pop into our heads aren't sinful. Yet. They can become sinful. As in: temptation to sin usually starts with a thought. Those random thought bombs aren't sinful (I think these are the ones you mean) if we ignore them or offer them up. The patterns of thinking I spoke about in my last post can be the result of sinful living though and a failure to guard our hearts and minds in Christ. Or they can stem from dysfunction within a family. Either way, they need to go :)

  13. I needed to read this...very badly.
    Thank you. :)

    1. Hi Mariella,
      I'm glad to hear that this post is helpful. Thanks for commenting!