The Problem with Stinking Thinking and What to Do About It



Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 


Today’s text often gets taken out of its context and put on refrigerator magnets, bumper stickers, and all manner of sit-arounds.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 

I suppose this text is helpful in any context, but it will serve us to remember the context in which Paul writes it: difficult circumstances, trials, and hardships. Our thoughts and patterns of thinking have a way of setting us up for success or failure.

Proverbs 23 famously says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (v. 7a NKJV). Though the source is disputed, the following quote, attributed to Frank Outlaw, captures profound wisdom.

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

The force of the quote is this: our thoughts become our destiny.

Do we want our destiny to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy? Of course we do. I don’t know about you, but my thinking needs work. In the recovery community, they have a condition they call “stinking thinking.” Sometimes you will hear it said, “Stinking thinking leads to drinking.” My thinking, left to itself, will turn toward negativity. I can get down on myself and on others and on life in general. It is like someone in my brain is slowly dimming the lights, causing my vision to become constricted until I can barely see what is right in front of me. It leads to a type of depression akin to a low-grade fever. It’s just there, quietly handicapping everything I do. I know a lot of you struggle in this same way.

Bringing it full circle, these ways of stinking thinking are death to joy. Remember where this whole conversation began? “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

What if I thought of my mind as a garden? I would want to plant good things there. I would want to stay on top of the weeding, uprooting negative thoughts as they emerged above the ground, not letting them take root and spread. I would pay attention to cultivating my thought life and nourishing it with fresh water and, yes, more weeding.


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who shows us what it looks like to set our minds and hearts on things above. Come, Holy Spirit, and claim the space of our thought life that our mind might be a place of glorious light in the Lord. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


  1. How do you intentionally sow the true, noble, pure, admirable, and so forth into your thought life?
  2. In what particular ways are you prone to stinking thinking?
  3. What might weeding look like in the garden of your mind? How can you catch the weeds at the earliest point?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.


  1. But whether taken out of context or not, this verse is for me is the essence of a Christ like mindset! I have even boiled down to it’s simplest form to help me rememberize this verse, “P48”! Thank you for your insight!

  2. The quote you used reminds me of another one; garbage in, garbage out. What we feed our minds with does affect our thoughts, desires and actions. My personal problem in this regard is to always evaluate everything with a critical mindset. If I let this weed grow, it will eventually smother out my joy in the Lord. I become blind to the many blessings as I can only see the negative. My response to this problem is to read the articles of spirit filled authors like yourself, listen to doctrinally deep Christian music, and fellowship with other brothers and sisters who desire to grow in their faith.

  3. I start my day with the Daily Text and singing a Psalm. I open the store to a short play list of Charley Pride gospel, including “in Jesus Name I Pray” which is a litany of who I need God to help me be through the day. I close the store to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Beauty Will Rise” and “I Will Trust You” along with Chris Bowater’s modern take on a classic hymn praying for revival. I end my day with the Disciple’s Journal which includes scripture, a paragraph or two from John Wesley, a Charles Wesley hymn and a collect from the Book of Common Prayer. Sometimes I throw in another hymn or two along the way.

    I am in a phase of my life in which I am learning the truth to the old adage: You never know God is all you need until He is all you have. It is the next step after learning that God’s grace can become a raging torrent clearing out the one thing that felt most right about my life.