Don’t Allow Past Thoughts to Dictate Your Future Actions

Don't Let Your Past Thoughts Dictate Your Future ActionsHave you heard of the First 5 app? You can use it as your alarm or you can open it when you wake, and it gives you a five minute devotion so that you can start your day out right with God. I absolutely love it and highly recommend it.

On Tuesday, Lysa Terkeurst wrote a devotion called “Getting Unstuck From My Thinking Rut” that really struck a chord with me. (I really suggest downloading the app and reading the full text, but I’ll paraphrase below.)

The devotional was based on Romans 12:2.

Romans 12:2 - Don't Let Your Past Thoughts Dictate Your Future Actions“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Lysa said that the end of Romans 12 serves as a guide of the attitudes and actions that a Christian should follow. It’s all well and good until the first time someone ticks us off. We can be tempted to look at this image of a perfect Christian and think we shouldn’t bother trying.

But Paul gives us “a key to being able to live a life that is pleasing to God. And it has to do with our minds.”

This is where I got really hooked: “Brain research shows that every conscious thought we have is recorded on our internal hard drive, known as the cerebral cortex. Each thought scratches the surface much like an Etch-A-Sketch. When we have the same thought again, the line of the original thought is deepened, causing what’s called a memory trace.”

With each repetition the trace deepens and when an emotion is tied to the trace, it grows exponentially. “This is true with every negative thought we attach to ourselves” and others.

It was like a lightbulb went on.

To say my sister and I did not get along growing up would be a massive understatement. We bickered through our elementary and middle school years, but the true blow outs came in high school. As time went our our fights came bigger and faster because we were not reacting to whatever slight had just occurred, but to all past fights as well.

I knew that even in high school, but I felt powerless to stop it.

Years passed. I left for college and so did she. I got married and graduated. She changed schools and found a passion for children’s ministry. And due to my mom’s constant influence, we kept in touch and became tentative friends.

We now call each other to catch up, go out to lunch, shop together, and do all the other things that friends do. We enjoy each other’s company. We’ve rewritten much of our memory trace, but as we found out a few weeks ago, it’s definitely still there.

We had a simple miscommunication that escalated way out of proportion in a matter of minutes. At least on my end, I was falling back into those mind patterns I’d developed so long ago. We ended the phone call, both upset, and I burst into tears.

Though we’ve both changed and grown in so many ways, I allowed our disagreement to act as an emotional trigger, which shot me back to those high school days and my high school reactions.

That’s not healthy and it’s not fair.

I will choose to focus on where we can go instead of where we've been. -Don't Let Your Past Thoughts Dictate Your Future ActionsBy falling back into that negative memory trace, I’m not allowing either of us to grow or change. I’m allowing past thoughts to dictate our future. That’s no good for either of us.

So now that I’m armed with this knowledge, when those past thoughts and feelings dredge up, I’m going to make a concerted effort to remind myself that those are false ways of thinking. Instead, I will replace those thoughts with new and positive ones.

We’ve accomplished so much good in our relationship and I will choose to focus on where we can go instead of where we’ve been.

Is there anyone in your life with whom you’re allowing past thoughts to dictate your present actions and reactions? Do you need to reexamine your relationship with a coworker, sibling, parent, child, or spouse? What negative memory traces have you tied to them? Will you join me in my pledge to make a conscious effort to replace those negative thoughts with positive thought patterns?

I’d love to hear your story!

By | 2016-08-09T14:30:22+00:00 August 11th, 2016|Encouragement, Faith, Relationships|15 Comments

About the Author:

I'm a tea-sipping, adventure-seeking, pug-loving kind of girl. I'm crazy for God and want to share his love with awesome girls around the globe.


  1. Brittany Putman August 12, 2016 at 10:14 am - Reply

    I love that we have the choice to start each day with a clean slate. It’s hard to do but it definitely makes life a little happier.

  2. Lecy | A Simpler Grace August 12, 2016 at 2:59 am - Reply

    This is a beautiful post and a great reminder. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Brianna Leigh August 12, 2016 at 12:16 am - Reply

    My mom has that app and loves it! Thanks for sharing such a personal story 🙂

  4. Rosemond August 11, 2016 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    this app sounds wonderful, I wake up in a stressful mind rut, this sounds like a wonderful way to get out of it! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Neely Moldovan August 11, 2016 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    So very true. I love this!

  6. Sarah Hartland August 11, 2016 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    This is a fabulous post and makes a really important point. Thanks so much for sharing

  7. Danielle August 11, 2016 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    What a great post! Thanks for the devotional tip I will be looking into it! It’s true we really do need to keep a hold on our thoughts our words too but it doesn’t become a word without being a thought first. 🙂

  8. cara August 11, 2016 at 9:21 am - Reply

    This is such great advice and a wonderful reminder to not dwell on the past! Beautiful post!

    • Megan Gonzalez August 11, 2016 at 10:39 am - Reply

      Thank you Cara! I know it’s much easier said than done, but it’s totally worth the effort.

  9. Kristin Cook August 11, 2016 at 8:04 am - Reply

    When I went to college, I was on the edge of what eventually became of very big mental/emotional health battle. Through college I struggled HEAVILY. But when I dwell on those struggles and all that went on, I get very upset. I wish that was never how I was. And when I think on them too much, I spiral and get depressed and angry. That wrong thinking needs to stop. Thanks for reminding me 🙂

    • Megan Gonzalez August 11, 2016 at 10:38 am - Reply

      I struggled with this in high school. We’d moved when I was in middle school to a small school in a small town. My big ways of thinking did not fit and, well, kids can be mean. I went through a similar mental/emotional battle. Thinking on those times make those feels of hurt and anger well up again, but now I work really hard to replace those thoughts with good ones. During that time, I focused on my studies, which allowed me to win scholarships that paid for my college. I got involved in drama, which was a great outlet and a fun time. In my final year, I made friends outside of school who went to senior prom with me and made it great. By replacing those negative thoughts with good ones (even though it takes me much longer to think of them), eventually I hope the from those days will eventually stay in the past where it belongs. And I also have to remind myself that it’s a combination of those good and bad times that made me who I am now. And I’m pretty happy with who I am 🙂

  10. melanie August 11, 2016 at 7:39 am - Reply

    Great post. I always catch myself living in the past and being stuck in a rut with my thinking as well. There are so many times I could’ve made new friendships but because I remember how I didn’t like this person back in the day I don’t even bother. I think I’m really going to try and do better with this. The past is the past and sometimes it’s best to just let it go.

    • Megan Gonzalez August 11, 2016 at 10:30 am - Reply

      Thank you Melanie! And I’m right there with you. I definitely have a tendency to hold on to past wrongs. Those places of hurt run deep, because there are so many strong emotions attached. But I’ll also make an effort to leave the past behind and extend grace not only to my family, but to the others around me too. Thank you for reminding me that this should extend to potential friends as well as current ones 🙂

  11. Kiara Catanzaro August 11, 2016 at 7:34 am - Reply

    You gave such an amazing perspective on this! Lovely post talking about a very important topic we can all learn form and apply to our lives 🙂 Thank you for sharing this!

    • Megan Gonzalez August 11, 2016 at 10:26 am - Reply

      Thank you Kiara! I’m so glad it spoke to you. Habitual ways of thinking and reacting are so easy to fall into. It takes a conscious effort to combat them.

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