When Innocent Thoughts Become Demanding Dictators

by Shirlee Abbott, COMPEL Training Member February 27, 2024
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (ESV)

I start each day with the best intentions to think good thoughts … but reality gets in my way.

I practice self-righteous speeches to a co-worker who hijacked my idea. I fantasize about a Pinterest-perfect house.

Sound familiar? Do thoughts that seem justified or innocent start you on a path to bitterness, envy or despair?

The writer of Psalm 19 saw the risk in these thought spirals: “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” (Psalm 19:13a, ESV). “Presumptuous sins,” built on willful, rebellious thoughts, can “have dominion” over us. They grab control.

Picture your mind as a harbor: Thoughts sail in and out. You invite some to drop anchor.

At first, a thought seems harmless. You entertain it. You share some innocent conversation. But then it wants bigger chunks of your time. It seeps beyond the boundaries of your self-control. It distorts your attitudes and actions. Gradually, this thought morphs from friendly guest to demanding dictator.

For me, it works like this:

  • Co-workers reject my idea and get behind a colleague’s suggestion. I think: My idea is better. I’ll make sure hers doesn’t work.

  • I watch home improvement shows. I think: My kitchen is boring. Our home is so bad — why bother?

  • Something I said doesn’t feel right. I think: That was a stupid thing to say. I can’t do anything right.


I no longer control the thought. It tries to control me, leading me to sin. And the longer I harbor a presumptuous thought, the harder it is to make it leave.

But hundreds of thoughts sail through our minds. How do we know which will be troublemakers?

Again, let’s look to the psalmist: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

“The meditation of [our] heart[s]” includes thoughts that sail in and out of our minds. “Acceptable” means pleasing to God.

Now picture yourself sitting at the table with Jesus, sharing coffee and one of these new thoughts. Does He nod His approval? Or does He say something different?

  • “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them …” (Matthew 7:12, ESV).
  • “… Be content with what you have …” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV).
  • “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works …” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).

Good news! Ungodly thoughts don’t like to share space with Christ. Invite Him to the conversation, and those presumptuous thoughts might pull up anchor and sail off on their own. If not, you have Jesus on your side.

Lord God, give me eyes to see Your nod of approval when my thoughts are good. Give me ears to hear Your words of correction when they’re not. Teach me to harbor thoughts that are pleasing in Your sight. Grant me wisdom to recognize negative thoughts before they drop anchor. Banish ungodly thoughts from the harbor of my mind. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


When our days and hands feel full, the enemy can bombard our minds with lies, fears and worries. In those moments, it can feel hard to know and believe what is true. But just because you think it doesn’t mean you have to believe it. Exchange your anxious thoughts and emotions for peace and clarity as you cling to God’s love and His good plans for you with our new devotional, Renew Your Mind: 40 Days To Quiet the Lies Inside Your Head. For a limited time, you can get this as a FREE gift when you donate $5 or more to Proverbs 31 Ministries! Click here to learn more.





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Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (ESV).

Use this verse to evaluate the thoughts anchored in your mind. Which ones don’t line up with the items on Paul’s list in Philippians 4:8? Send those presumptuous thoughts sailing out of your harbor.

We’d love to hear from you — share your thoughts about today’s devotion in the comments!

© 2024 by Shirlee Abbott. All rights reserved.

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