Are we judged by our actions alone, or for our thoughts and feelings as well? A question which has bothered most of us at some point does loyalty extend to thoughts and feelings or is it limited to action alone?
When you give someone a gift you would really rather not give, do you actually get a tick for your generous action, or a cross for your negative thoughts?
When you do somebody harm but bleed inwardly as you execute it, are you bad because you caused harm or good because you felt bad while doing so?
When you told your friend you forgive her but secretly desired to wring her neck, were you good or bad?
It’s true that since nobody can really figure out your thoughts, people would generally judge you for your actions. But the point is are you really, really good when just your actions are good? Or, do you need the solid backing of pristine clean thoughts and emotions as well?
Sometimes we just cannot help our thoughts and feelings, however we may try. But actions are certainly within our control. How can you avoid hating or thinking ill of the person who harmed you intentionally? And yet you can easily mask that hatred and act as if nothing is wrong. You cannot help feeling hungry and entertaining thoughts of sinfully delicious, calorie-laden food. Yet you can hold yourself back from action on that impulse.
And if thoughts and emotions are not within our control most of the time, why should one feel guilty of them? So long as your actions are correct, should what you think or feel make you guilty? Kindness and goodness cannot always be about how you feel or thing, but about how you act… surely we are judged not for your thoughts, but for our actions, which are within our control? so then why feel guilty about any wayward thoughts?
The reason there is a gap between what you think or feel and the way you act is because of the clash of values in almost every circumstance. Those who have clear cut values are most likely to have thoughts that result in action. These people are mostly clear about what they want; are well-respected and looked up to. They are also likely to be predictable people who lead fairly predictable lives. However those who have a more flexible thoughts and actions, their thoughts and actions waver forever to suit every different circumstance.
Not all thoughts become action, though all actions emanate from some thought or feeling.
But can you change your thoughts? Do you have the same control over them as you do over your actions? There are those who say that one can control one’s thoughts if one tries hard enough. However, even though you may not be able to control all thoughts, you can certainly choose the thoughts that you wish to act upon.
And therein lies the key to the rather complicated relationship between thoughts, feelings and action…
“Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
And by carefully choosing the thoughts we wish to act upon, we are able to establish habits and so help formulate our own character.