Ask an EOC: How Can I Stop Blasphemous Thoughts?
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Commentary by Nicholas Damascus | FāVS News
Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives
The mind is constantly bombarded with a plethora of thoughts. The thoughts that we choose to meditate and focus on will often influence and determine our attitude, desires and behavior, ultimately impacting our lives.
What thoughts we entertain descend from our mind into the heart, where they typically become the motivation or catalyst for an action. If our thoughts are peaceful, quiet, good and kind, then we can experience within us what is revealed in the scriptures as that peace beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
This is the peace of God that enables one to maintain, in the midst of suffering, persecution, distress, crisis or any other tribulation. This peace also gives us the strength and comfort to endure, calmly passing through any event or experience.
If we nurture destructive thoughts of evil and worldly passions of pride, greed, lust, jealousy, gluttony, covetousness and sometimes anger, we destroy that inner peace. Our lives become chaotic and in disarray, and, more importantly, we lose control. It is the passion itself that is now in control of shaping your intentions, attitudes and reactions. You become the slave, and the passion itself becomes your master.
Controlling Our Thoughts
So, how does one control their thoughts to avoid losing control of their lives?
Eastern Orthodox Christians recognize the aim of every Christian should be the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. The scriptures state that each and every one of us is the temple for the Holy Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 6:19). God is holy, and for him to live within each of us, one needs to provide an environment conducive for him to indwell.
If our heart is defiled with evil passions controlling our actions, it behooves us to purify our hearts by repenting of these passions. Then we can become what Orthodox Christians define as dispassionate. Only with one’s desire and the power of the Holy Spirit of God can one gain control of their lives (Philippians 4:13). No one can serve two masters and be at peace (Matthew 6:24).
By incorporating the following spiritual practices, one can manage one’s thoughts.
Prayer might be thought of as an open line of communication, a request, a petition for understanding, a plea for help, a supplication, an intercession, a thanksgiving, a confession and much more. The actual event of prayer is a mystery where one might say involves the energies of the Holy Spirit of God, who mystically connects us to one another and to God.
Saint Theophan the Recluse (1894) calls the head (mind) “a crowded rag market.” It is not possible to pray to God there because there is no end to our uncontrollable thoughts, continually chasing after one another. He tells us that “life is in the heart” and that we must descend there with our mind.
One might ask how, where, when and how often does one pray? The Orthodox response would be anyway, everywhere, always and at any time.
Metropolitan Kallistos Ware (1934-2022), one of the most prolific writers of the Orthodox faith, has stated that the reason for the decrease in fasting is surely a heretical point of view towards human nature, a false “spiritualism” that rejects and disregards the body observing man solely in terms of his cognitive rational mind.
As a result, many contemporary Christians have lost the true vision of man as an integral existence of body, mind and soul. Saint Paul affirms this: “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit … glorify God with your body.” (Corinthians 6:19-20)
The early church fathers recognized and emphasized that true fasting is to repent and abstain from sin, complacency and evil actions.
However, to begin this process, one usually starts by fasting with the most evident challenge of abstaining from certain foods as well as quantity of food. This common approach is an essential action of cleansing the body for a healthier mind and the strengthening of the will.
When you fast, there is this immediate benefit that one can experience, a sense of control and a newness of life.
Giving of alms is a sharing and giving of oneself, your talents, your time and, most often, the sharing of your resources with those in need.
Saint John Chrysostom (347–407) had this to say about serving the poor. “Nothing is so strong and powerful to extinguish the fire of our sins as almsgiving. It is greater than all other virtues. It places the lovers of it by the side of the King Himself, and justly.”
The Bible says much the same: “And the King [Jesus] will answer and say to them [the sheep], ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
Vigilance is said to have the consciousness and presence of Christ within your heart and mind throughout the day, no matter how seemly mundane or insignificant an event or an experience may be.
One must guard one’s mind and heart from the assault of thoughts of the enemy. Vigilance can be likened to a military scout at the head of the column, completely present and attentive to his surroundings.
Saint Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20, see also Galatians 5:24)
Our lives depend on the kind of thoughts we entertain. All you can change is yourself, but sometimes that changes everything.
The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.
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