This could be one of the most interesting topics I’ve ever written. My cousin sent me an article/ podcast called ‘544: Batman’ last week. If you get a chance check out the article or listen to the podcast; you won’t be disappointed. I am going to give you the short version of one of the research psychologist’s experiments, and I believe it’s going to blow your mind.
Once I started listening to the show and hearing what they were saying, I knew instantly that this was too important to pass up discussing.
Early in a man named Bob’s career as a Research Psychologist, he went into his lab late at night and hung signs on the rat’s cages. They were your typical lab rats, nothing special– just rats. On some cages, he hung signs that said, “Smart/ intelligent lab rat” on other cages he hung signs that said, “Dumb/ unintelligent rat.”
Next, he took a group of experimenters into the lab and displayed to them the rats with the notes above their cages. He conveyed to them that for the next week, some of them will get incredibly smart rats, and others will get incredibly stupid rats. He informed them that they needed to run their rat through a maze and record how well the rat does. Simple enough, and the experimenters were watched or filmed.
What if I told you that what we think about others can affect them. What if the thoughts we have about others could change how they run their race? And the ideas they may have about us could alter ours?
Sadly, the same rat that was labeled smart was held softer, gentler and the experimenters said things like, “Yes, this rat does seem to have a much smarter face.” “Even his eyes look intelligent.” The rats labeled dumb couldn’t finish the maze very quickly. No, it was more of a crawl, but the ones with the sign that said “smart” could do the maze twice as fast, and yet at times it was the same rat.
What we think about certain people affects them, and how well they do. Could this be why children who are bullied at times commit suicide? Is this why some children achieve more significant accomplishments than others in the same family? There is one story in the Bible that seems to go with this topic, and I think you will find it surprising. What one person thought about another person– although they were wrong–caused a war and many deaths. Let’s look at that.
(1 Chronicles chapter 19:1-4 NLT), “Sometime after this, King Nahash of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun became king. David said, “I am going to show loyalty to Hanun because his father, Nahash, was always loyal to me.” So David sent messengers to express sympathy to Hanun about his father’s death.
But when David’s ambassadors arrived in the land of Ammon, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun, “Do you really think these men are coming here to honor your father? No! David has sent them to spy out the land so they can come in and conquer it!” So Hanun seized David’s ambassadors and shaved them, cut off their robes at the buttocks, and sent them back to David in shame.”
Obviously, these men had bad thoughts about David and the intents of his heart. David wanted to show loyalty because this young man’s father had shown the same to him. Loyalty and faithfulness go hand in hand. He wanted to bless this man, but this man’s commanders put an evil thought in his heart towards David that was false. Basically, he didn’t say “Nice rat” but instead “SPY RAT.”
What have we named our rats?
To top it off, what they thought David would do, which was take over the land, ended up happening. He took the crown of their god that weighed over a hundred pounds and put it on his throne, and he took their men and made them work in difficult jobs. What they thought he would do, he did.
When the religious leaders of Yeshua’s day said that he cast out demons by the Prince of demons, Beelzebub, He told them they would be held accountable for every idle, empty word spoken.
When I was growing up, my parents told my sister she was going to grow up and become a nurse one day. Every now and then it was brought up and once at Christmas, she was even given a doctors kit. At an early age, my sister became sick with Nephritis, a serious kidney disease and was admitted to the hospital for a lengthy amount of time. I’m sure my parents were very concerned about their little girl. Today, I am proud to say that my sister is a nurse PRN and one who has compassion for her patients.
In our last newsletter, I wrote about an English professor who told me I could write and often pointed out how much she enjoyed reading my papers. Her words helped me write my first novel!
But according to the rat test and the David test, it doesn’t just matter what someone is told they will do or become; it also matters what we think they will do or become. It matters if we think they are smart or not. Perhaps that is why Yeshua said, “If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court” (Matthew 5:22 NLT).
What I am trying to say is our thoughts have power.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Paul said to meditate about these things. Sometimes, I like to take this verse and apply it to people. I like to ask myself, “What’s lovely about that person?” Isn’t that what we should be doing? We can all at times point out people’s faults, or at times we might find ourselves like Hunan, thinking someone has evil intentions towards us when in actuality they have good.
The following story is taken from jewfaq.org.
Speech and Lashon Ha-Ra.
“A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The rabbi told the man, “Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds.” The man thought this was a strange request, but it was a simple enough task, and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, “Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage, your words have done than you can recollect the feathers.”
Speech has been compared to an arrow: once the words are released, like an arrow, they cannot be recalled, the harm they do cannot be stopped, and the harm they do cannot always be predicted, for words like arrows often go astray.”
Let’s think about the rats and also about our children, our family members, our sick father or our sibling who is battling drug addiction, and let’s think about how our words about them can cause them to do better– heal better and ultimately live. Life and death in the tongue are as spoken gems or rancid waste. I am not talking about naming it and claiming it theology, but I do believe we are on to something here.
I want to meditate on how David’s heart was filled with kindness for a man who had lost his father, but the words of others influenced the king so much that an all-out war was started. Lastly, let’s look at a man called Moses who when God called him to do a job said, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I have never been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”
Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”
But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else” (Exodus 4:10-13 NLT).
If you noticed, Moses argued with HaShem and around seven times told him why he could not possibly do the job God had called him to do. He had murdered a man in Egypt, and they would kill him. God says the men looking for you are dead. Moses continues speaking doubt and saying that he cannot do it. He even says he doesn’t have the greatest speaking voice in front of people, especially the Pharaoh over the whole land. God says, well I have created your mouth! I can teach you how to speak.
Oh, Abba teach us how to speak light and LIFE!
We may not have any confidence in ourselves, but if God does, and He has a job for us to do, let HIM fill our mouth with HIS words. When we are around our enemies or those who don’t think very highly of us, let us look at them and find something true, something lovely, something of a good report, and think on those things.
Not all rats are the same.
Photograph by Jeff Manning