I have long been fascinated with Stoicism and am often intrigued by quotes from thought leaders of the movement. I often find an interesting application of Stoic principles in my own discipleship quest. One quote I read recently, from Marcus Aurelius, said, “Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.” This mimics – and is no doubt inspired by – Proverbs 23:7, which says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
What we think about defines who we are. You can’t think selfish thoughts and be an unselfish person. The brain doesn’t work in such a manner. Every thought burns a new neural pathway. The more we think the same thought or way, the deeper the pathway gets grooved into our psyche. We do indeed become dyed by the thoughts we entertain.
I love how Marcus Aurelius specifically said it was our soul that was dyed by the thoughts we have. Our thoughts affect the deepest, most personal part of ourselves. God placed His image on our soul. It was later engulfed and colored by the blood of Jesus. How dare we attempt to paint our souls as any color other than the precious blood of Christ! Yet this is exactly what we do when we allow selfish and sinful thoughts to dye our innermost beings.
Our thoughts have consequences beyond anything we can imagine. God is a generous God, but if we think selfish thoughts, we will lose our spirit of generosity. Racist thoughts lead to racist behaviors. Violent thoughts fill our souls with rage and instability. We cannot escape the consequences of what we allow ourselves to think.
Pure thoughts enhance the blood coloring of our soul. When we think God-pleasing thoughts, we glorify Him by signifying His sacrifice was not in vain. Pure thoughts show God we are thankful and humbled by the price He paid; they demonstrate we recognize what He did for us and, in return, we will do anything for Him.
With what are you allowing your soul to be dyed? Knowing our souls are dyed by the thoughts we have, what is it you are allowing into your mind? I’m reminded again of the admonition of Paul: “Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We control what we think about; we control what thoughts we allow to linger, and which we quickly cast aside. Whatever lingers colors the soul. It shapes who we are and what we will become.
Habitual thoughts will either make or break your usefulness in the Kingdom of God. We should think of only those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and anything of moral excellence or worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8). As the writer of Hebrews says, we should “fix our thoughts on Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1). He is the epitome of all that is true, just, and pure. When we think of Jesus, we think of holiness. It is with this we should seek to dye our souls. Your thoughts will shape you. They will change you. Based on your thought patterns, who is it you are becoming today?