Filters purify. They keep out the unwanted and leave the beneficial. In any area of life, improvement comes through removing or keeping out bad and adding in good through filtering.
A defective filter does little good. Only remove bad and fail to leave or replace with good, and the bad comes back in full force (Luke 11:24-26). Only add in good and fail to remove the bad, and the good fails to have much — if any — benefit (Colossians 3).
Filters in our thought lives reduce overload by sifting through all the information and opportunities constantly coming at us. They allow for separating and removing what we don’t want and keeping what we do want. This filtering involves processing information received by placing it against truth, and with the Holy Spirit’s guiding choosing the appropriate response.
Applying filters involves creating habits and establishing priorities that help keep out negative and allow positive to shape us.
Habits go a long way in directing our thought lives. For example, I make a habit of considering the impact of whatever I choose to read. This means reading very little romance or horror and also flipping between fiction and nonfiction as a routine. I also regularly consider the benefit of the various blogs and articles I read. This habit keeps me balanced since my thoughts are easily influenced by the written word.
Filtering thoughts also involves prioritizing. This means realizing that sometimes we have to say “no” to good things simply because we cannot say “yes” to everything if we hope to avoid overload. Prioritizing includes everything from the what to read, what movies to watch, who to spend time with, and even what commitments to accept or reject at church.
My husband and I have created a filtering system that orders priorities within our schedules. This system works well in keeping my inner atmosphere from getting overwhelmed with too many details and lack of focus and my husband from getting out of balance by failing to relax and rest.
Our prioritizing filter involves keeping each other accountable and not adding any large and/or long-term commitment to our schedules without consulting one another. We ask if the added commitment will tax the margin in our lives because lack of margin almost always results in an overwhelmed thought life.
Start by looking at what overwhelms you easily and finding specific ways to simplify and keep overload at bay. Remember that a good filter usually involves:
- An accountability system
- Acknowledging and recognizing limits
- Prioritizing to maintain healthy margins
- The Holy Spirit’s guidance
- Consistent time with God
- Adjustments with the seasons of life
The idea that focus determines reality is never truer than in our thinking. This is why we must deliberately choose a filtering system based on absolute truth — God’s truth — and not on the relative truth of man that changes like shifting shadows.
“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)