Breaking out of 'boxed in' thinking

A Christian Science perspective.

Have you ever felt as though you were in a box – repeating conversations about relationships gone sour, rehearsing aches and pains, lamenting a lost opportunity, or gnawing on perceived injustices? It is natural to want to be free from what would rob us of our peace of mind, and there is a way out of the habits of thought – the boxes – we unwittingly put ourselves in.

However, stepping out of our familiar box may feel as though we’ve pulled up anchor and we’re now just drifting along. That’s the time to remember that when we reach out for the hand of God, He gives us the courage and strength to drop anchor in the bountiful reservoir of His presence. Here, securely moored, we can honor those impulses that emanate from a desire to break free of binding habits. We can find freedom by resisting the temptation to ruminate over what would keep us boxed in.

Maybe our box is self-pity or self-recrimination. Instead of hammering in nails of “poor me” or “shameful blame,” we can push open the box for a fresh perspective on who we are – an individual idea created by God to reflect His goodness and love. A friend and I used to share family woes with each other in our telephone conversations – a spousal misunderstanding, a stubborn child, boring household chores. As you can imagine, things didn’t improve for us or our families. Each off-putting statement added another slat to our boxed-in thinking.

Today we laugh when we recall the day we decided enough was enough. We knew better, so why didn’t we do better? We made a decision to step out of our boxes. Together we determined not to make negative, thoughtless statements about family members, or about anyone. This Bible verse from Ezekiel captured our intent: “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit” (18:31).

My friend and I reminded each other, as we chatted, of our vow to watch that our words expressed what we cherished in our loved ones. With that resolve in place, our telephone chats became more productive and our relationships with each other and our families became stronger. Rather than passing judgment on another’s actions or decisions, we found that a balancing comment or thoughtful silence often served to defuse an escalating exchange.

We took this Bible verse as our guide: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalms 19:14). Instead of allowing unwholesome thought patterns to take hold in our thinking, my friend and I challenged the temptation to repeat what would keep us boxed in.

The same approach can be applied to those outside our family circle. We can resist the temptation to speak disparagingly of anyone, from neighbors to public officials to citizens of other countries and to those from a different culture.

God is always present to support every right endeavor and to pick us up when we stumble. The prayerful desire to break out of our boxes, whatever forms they may take, propels us in the right direction. It opens thought to His guidance. And if we do stumble, His hand is there to put us back on the path of right intent. Heeding Mary Baker Eddy’s admonition to “stand porter at the door of thought” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 392) can strengthen our determination to do better.

Let us strive to admit into our conversations only what contributes to the harmony and well-being of all whom our thoughts rest upon. By gaining a clearer view of ourselves as God’s loved children, unencumbered by critical thoughts and untarnished by past indiscretions, we’ll free ourselves from our self-imposed boxes.

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