As I was perusing the internet the other day, I saw a poster that I’d run across in the past. This meaningful saying reads: Be careful of your thoughts for they become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your character, and your character determines your destiny.
Each of us is given free-will in this life. It is my decision what I choose to dwell upon. I can focus my thoughts on lewd, negative and evil topics or I can choose to direct my mind to dwell on things that are righteous, wholesome and good. In reality, the world in which we live offers a selection of both from which I might pick. The Holy Spirit instructs, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8). God tells me, “For as he thinks in his heart so is he . . . ” (Proverbs 23:7).
A person’s heart is the seat of one’s thoughts. So what I choose to dwell on will influence and determine my words. Notice the words of our Lord, “…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Matthew 12:34-35). Additionally, it is important for me to realize that my thoughts lead to my actions. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).
Actions become habits. Behaviors that are repeated over and over again become imprinted in our brains and are repeated with little or no thought. I wear eyeglasses. One of my habits is to prop my glasses on the top of my head. Sometimes, I find myself reaching to lower my glasses from the top of my head even though I am not wearing them. This repeated behavior becomes a pattern or a habit in my life. The source of my habits stems back to the things that I have chosen to focus my thoughts and attention.
Old habits are hard to break once they become imprinted in my brain after repeating the behavior for a long period of time. This is why it is so important to form good habits. Bad habits are hard to kick. However, many people who exhibit bad habits such as a quick temper try to pass off their behavior by saying, “That’s just how I am.” In some sense this is true. This is who they have become. The habit of blowing up is formed when one repeatedly exercises a lack of self-control. This habit can be broken through refocusing and determination. I need to form good habits and let the momentum of those habits help carry me in the right direction.
One’s character is defined by their habits. People observe our habits and draw conclusions, both personally and professionally, by what they see. Jesus said the same using different terminology, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:16-18).
Our character will determine both our destiny in this life and in eternity. The words to a children’s song contains so much truth, “Be careful little mind what you think. Be careful little mouth what you say. Be careful little hands what you do. For the Father up above is looking down in love.” What you choose to dwell on becomes your actions, which in turn becomes your habits, which shapes your character and determines your destiny. This is what makes you who you are!