Coaching for the Abundant Life
The Metanoia Catholic “Model” is the process we use to analyze our mindsets, bring them to the Lord, and find greater freedom. Here we’re going to begin breaking down the first part of The Model on “circumstances and thoughts.” If you want to know more about our Model, check our podcast episode on The Model and its roots in Aquinas!
Have you ever felt powerless in your circumstances? Like, “if only there wasn’t this pandemic…” Or, “If only my kids were back in school…” Or, my favorite, “If only my spouse could be more patient…”
Then you’d feel better about your life, right?
But waiting for things to change is a terrible way to solve a problem—especially if the problem isn’t the circumstances you’re in, but the way you’re thinking about them.
Let us explain…
Circumstances are objective truths, with no opinions attached, no interpretations, and no drama. Just facts. It’s the “trigger” or the object of the thoughts and feelings. The circumstance is data we take through our five senses before there is an interpretation attached to it.
Here’s an example: You might work for a company in a position that doesn’t challenge you and has left you feeling stuck, trapped, unfulfilled. The job is the circumstance you are in.
Thoughts are our interpretations, judgments, opinions, perspectives, and stories about the specific circumstance. Thoughts are merely sentences in our brains about circumstances. They come from our prior experiences as well as the judgments of what we think is good or evil. Our thoughts are our subjective truth.
Here’s an example: Our thoughts about our job might lead us to think that we’re stuck in our career, that there’s nothing new we can learn, and no fulfillment or enjoyment we can gain from it.
It is important to distinguish between circumstances and thoughts because we often confuse our thoughts about a circumstance with the truth—and they are not the same thing.
Here’s what we mean: we get to choose our thoughts, but we don’t necessarily get to choose our circumstances. Oftentimes we think we have to change our circumstances to improve a situation. However, changing your circumstance should be the exception, not the rule.
Though we can’t always change our external circumstances, we always have the power to change our thoughts about our circumstances. Once we realize that, we can put our energy into changing what we can: ourselves! This both helps us grow and increases our peace.
Need an example? How about one from Scripture: “As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name” (Acts 5:41). Interpretation: the followers of Jesus had every right to be angry about being flogged for following Jesus—even hateful towards their oppressors—but instead, they chose to rejoice. It’s all about how we think of it.
Distinguishing between circumstances and thoughts also helps us to see the difference between objective truth and subjective truth. Objective truth is reality, facts, it is what is. Subjective truth is our personal interpretation of the world. The point of subjective truth is to lead us towards the highest objective truth—God.