Change Your Mind, Change Your Behavior

I have become a news junkie. I’m on my computer most of the day, working, and like most of us, I check email often. Because I subscribe to breaking news alerts, these frequently await me in my inbox, leaving me at the mercy of whatever is deemed newsworthy by the press. Sometimes I go to my email to find a particular message and realize 10 minutes later than I’ve become distracted and forgotten my original reason for going there. Distraction is stealing my time, not to mention my attention.

But I can’t blame the news organizations for doing their job. I put myself in this situation. I subscribe to the alerts and daily online newspaper, and I am the one who chooses to open the message and read it. What concerns me is that I have trained myself to attend to whatever it is that calls at me online, which is usually something negative and always something of fleeting value. There is little reward: Time is lost, work goes undone, and satisfaction is missing.

“Distraction is stealing my time.”

If I allow my attention to be pulled away so easily, to lose my train of thought, how does that affect my spiritual life? I suspect I’ve been training myself to become distracted, training my “monkey mind,” diminishing my ability to be in the present moment, to be mindful, to listen for God’s voice, to connect with the divine. I need to change that. I need to change my mind.

The word “repent” comes from the Greek word “metanoeo,” which means to change one’s mind. It is the act of turning away from something. It takes effort. It is intentional, just like physical exercise. So can I turn away from the habit of being lured by breaking news and proceed with my work? Can I reign in my attention and strengthen the part of me that directs it, so that it serves me rather than me serving it? To do so, I have to become aware of where I allow my attention to go, to notice when I let it move off task. I have to catch my attention when it wanders, turn it around, and bring it back to what I intend to focus on.

Apart from my work, on what do I intend to focus? That is the key to making a change of mind a change of behavior. Focusing on food or on cars or on music will change your mind by focusing, but what value will that be? It could grow into an obsession. But focusing on God’s love and forgiveness will seep into every area of life, every relationship, and every activity.

Notice where you allow your attention to go, and with God’s help and forgiveness, turn it to the source of life, over and over again, so that the change of mind becomes a change in behavior.

—Pam Lappies, Deacon



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 We Are an Open and Affirming Church

What does “Open and Affirming” (ONA) mean?

Open and Affirming (ONA) is the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the UCC which make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.