Did you know that our thoughts take up actual “real estate” in our brains and have the ability to arrange and rearrange our DNA makeup, affecting not only us but our future generations? Both science and scripture confirm this ideology. Crazy thought, right? Albeit somewhat concise, let’s attempt to unpack this deeply complex and provocative concept:
Choice and the Hereditary Myth
As believers, we all have experienced what I like to call The Romans 7 Complex. You know how it goes—you do what you don’t want to do and you don’t do what you know you should do (Romans 7:15-25)! What a mystifying and often frustrating dichotomy to live in! But, if we take the time to peel back the spiritual and psychological layers of what’s really going on, we will begin to demystify and understand this concept more and therefore, be less frustrated and more readily equipped to pull down strongholds, cast down imaginations, and bring every lawless thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Remember, God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).” So let’s get some deeper knowledge.
One of the perks of being created in the image and likeness of God is having already instilled in us an innate knowing or sensing of right from wrong (Ecclesiastes 7:29 & Romans 1:18). This brings us to the more practical matter of the power, responsibility, and gift of choice (Ecclesiastes 7:29; Deuteronomy 30:19). You see, it is not who we are that is the origin of the problem; rather it is who we have become through our experiences and the daily choices we make. The ability to choose has rippling implications.
Our thoughts and subsequent choices have the ability to cause genetic expression to take place in our brains. How?! Well, each choice we make is first a thought, and as we think, we produce proteins and chemicals in our brains. These proteins are further solidified and strengthened each time we choose to engage with a particular thought. Much like the continual walking on untroddened ground eventually creates a path, we create and reinforce neurological pathways in our brain when we choose to think negatively or choose to capture rogue thoughts and choose a more optimistic perspective. This then gives us a predisposition for thinking similar thoughts in the future, creating a cycle or thought pattern.
Thinking and choosing produces real physical structures in the brain that are made of proteins and chemicals. Everything we do and say is first a thought. If you think negatively or choose wrong, it becomes a physical reality in your brain, and if you don’t get rid of these physical toxic thoughts, you will live and operate from them, creating negative patterns and habits. These are the “bad habits” that we think of as being part of who we are. We say things like, “Well that’s just me,” or “That’s just how I am” to excuse unrighteous behavior, without realizing we have the power to change who we are through our thinking. And although biologically and mentally that may have become a part of who we are through our experiences and choices, they are the toxically wired-in aspect and not the true you!
The conclusive fact to be drawn from this, is that the thoughts of our minds manifest in the physical nature of the brain as physical thoughts, creating and perpetuating neurological circuits and pathways that impact the health of our body, soul and spirit. This is what neuroplasticity and epigenetics are all about.
What This Further Means
Research has shown that 75 to 98 percent of mental, physical , and behavioral illness comes from one’s own thought life. This means that only 2 to 25 percent of these illnesses come from the environment and genes. Both science and scripture supports our innate ability to change our thoughts and minds for an all-around healthier outcome in our spirit, soul, and body which will, in turn, have a healthier impact on our future generations (Exodus 34:7). This concept shatters the myth that many sicknesses, illnesses, and diseases are hereditary.
We are not victims of our unique pathology and genetic makeup when it comes to disease, or of the toxic thought cycles of our families. The behaviors, patterns, ailments, and conditions that continue to pop up in our ancestral lineage are actually symptoms of the thoughts we think. This is why we must renew our minds daily (hourly, if necessary) with the word of God (Romans 12:2). While not discounting the value of modern science, we ought to rejoice in the fact that our health and well-being are not dependent on a diagnosis, prognosis, or prescription. That was not God’s original intent for us.
Like Paul says in Romans 7, thank God for the work of the cross! Science and scripture confirm we are able and designed to change our minds for the betterment of our spirits, souls and bodies. And, by perfect design, this too is our choice.
For more on this fascinating topic, please watch this message by Christian cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf:
Suggested reading: Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf