How to Control Your Thoughts

How to Control Your Thoughts

By: Fr Anthony Messeh
Reposted from

Fr Anthony Messeh is an American Coptic Orthodox Christian living in Arlington, VA. The aim of his blog is to spread the message of a real, relevant and rewarding God.

That title is a bit misleading (but it sure is catchy isn’t it?).  You can’t actually “control” your thoughts – at least not in the same way that you can control other things, like a blender or a remote control car or a group of dancing robots.

It would be great if you could, but you can’t.  You can’t control every thought that comes into your head.  Thoughts will creep in that you have no control over.  For example:

Insecure thoughts:  “I’m not good enough and ______ probably thinks I’m annoying.”
Fearful thoughts: “I’ll never be able to fix this or get to that point in my career, marriage, etc.”

Negative thoughts: “My life is so difficult and everything is working against me.”
Impure thoughts: (no explanation needed for this one)

Dealing with thoughts like these isn’t easy.  It can be debilitating at times.  It feels like you’re in round 4 of a 15-round sumo wrestling match with this guy.  No matter what you do, the thoughts just keep coming and coming and coming…

Is there a solution?  Is there anything we can do?  Or are we destined to be slaves to our thoughts forever?

Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

The solution to your thought problem is often the exact opposite of what you might think.  The solution isn’t to REMOVE those pesky old thoughts, but rather to REPLACE them.

Imagine you have a 1,000 gallon tank of water.  Imagine that it’s full to the brim and you want to empty the water of it.  How would you do it?

You have two options:

Option A: try to pick up the pool and dump the water out (aka, the dumb way)

Option B: throw a rock in (aka, the smart/I-obviously-listen-to-Fr.-Anthony way)

What would happen if you tried the first option – to pick it up and dump the water out?  YOU WILL FAIL.  You will fail and you will be exhausted as well.  That’s because trying to REMOVE the water doesn’t work.

But what would happen if you tried the second option – throw a rock in?  A little water would splash out.  And if you threw another rock in?  A little more would splash out.  And what would happen if you continued to throw rocks in there – one a day every day for 10 years?


The same is true for your thoughts.  Stop trying to remove your old thoughts and instead seek to replace them.  How?

Below are four ways (or rocks) that you can use to replace those negative thought patterns.


As long as your thoughts remain hidden inside your head, they have power over you.  But once you let them out, they somehow become a lot easier to deal with.


Reading is the fastest way to put new thoughts in your head.  For me personally, there is no more important habit than this.  I believe that reading will bring more fruit into life – when done consistently – than just about any other spiritual practice.  It certainly has for me.


There’s a good way to pray about your thought problem – “Lord, I surrender my thoughts to You and ask Your Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts this day.”
And then there’s a not-so-good way to pray:  “please God help me to stop remembering my mistakes and thinking that I’m a bad person.  I know I made mistakes but please help me to stop remembering them all the time – especially that one mistake that was just so awful.  Please please please help me stop thinking about that mistake and how awful I am…”
Prayer is good, but obsessive prayer is not good.  The kind of prayer you need is the kind that a) is THANKFUL, b) is TRUSTING, and c) PRAISING.


Learn to reject thoughts that you KNOW are not true and from the devil.  JUST SAY NO!  Say what Jesus said when His disciple Peter introduced a thought that He didn’t want/need to hear, “GET BEHIND ME SATAN!  You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)
Trust me, if you struggle with your thought life, you are not alone.  It is something that everyone struggles with to some degree.  Believe me, there’s help for you.  You don’t need to live as a slave to your thoughts forever.  But you must be committed to taking small steps every single day and being patient as those small steps add up to major changes in your way of thinking.

See more from Fr Anthony Messeh at

No Comments



The Greatness of John the BaptistExtra! Extra! Read All About ItChristians in IraqInterview with Abouna Tadros Malaty (Fr Paul Fanous)Loving Your EnemiesSacrament of UnctionThe Resurrection of the DeadFr. Alexander Schmemann: Reflections on Pope Shenouda III5 Things You Need to Know About LentBaptismPrayer Before Holy CommunionGod’s Invitation: Will We Accept?Our Relationship With GodThe Unforgivable SinBears in AlaskaSelf-DenialThe Significance of Christ’s TearsThe Fast of Saint MaryStrength In NumbersSeeing Christ in OthersWhat is Hell?From Saul to PaulThe Missing Prayer (Part THREE of THREE)The Missing Prayer (Part TWO of THREE)The Missing Prayer (Part ONE of THREE)Lamb of GodHebrews 12:14 – A ContemplationSpear in Your Side3 Things To Do This Lent!Lenten Fasting – RevisitedAttaining Godly LoveBeing Restored by ChristRecommended Readings ListContemplation on the KingdomThe Glorious Feast of the AscensionHow to Not Spiritually Wither Away in the Holy 50Drawing Closer to GodThe Feast of St Mark the ApostleI Rescued the FatherlessAdmit it… Isn’t church just sheer boredom?Evidence for the ResurrectionFr Mark Basily – 103.2 Interview (Palm Sunday Bombings)The Effects of ReadingThe Significance of The Upper Room to The Early ChurchMental Health and ChristianityLiving in the MomentBecause He is Risen I am HopefulFeelings of DoubtApostles FastTrusting in HimThe Samaritan WomanSt Paul Defending His Apostleship and ServiceSupporting and Serving the NeedyThe Lord's PrayerThe Man Born BlindThe Paralytic ManLet’s Get Personal About LentNew Year New MeGod Became ManA Fool on Earth, but Wise for EternityFr Yacoub’s 10 Tips on PurityHurt People Heal PeopleMy Perfect SelfNew Comers to the ChurchFaith or FeelingsYou Can’t Leave MeHe is Useful to Me for MinistryThe Love of a ParentPsalm 23Understanding the Holy FiftyThomas SundayContemplations on Good FridayBridging the GapUse It Before You Lose ItLove (Advent Series)21How to Survive the Christmas SeasonHow to Transform Your Spiritual Life in 2019