Nobody I know ever warned more effectively against “Stinking Thinking” than my unforgettable friend, the late Zig Ziglar. His son, Tom, carries his father’s legacy forward, doing his bit to help banish the scourge of Stinking Thinking.
What is Stinking Thinking? It’s the business professional saying to him or herself, “I’ve called enough customers for one day; it’s time for a break.” It’s the harried homemaker thinking, “I can’t carry on; nobody appreciates me.” It’s the employee avoiding making the case for requesting a raise by saying, “I’m probably not worth any more than I’m being paid.” It’s the overwhelmed mom doubting her ability to cope with one more toddler temper tantrum or the dad coming home and sitting down in front of the TV instead of spending time with his children and wife as deep down he knows he ought. It’s the writer thinking that he or she can’t sit in front of the keyboard for another minute and it’s you and me explaining to ourselves why we shouldn’t exercise more than we do.
Stinking Thinking can’t be overcome by arguing with ourselves; our lower self has far better debating talents than our higher selves. Stinking Thinking can best be defeated by utterly obliterating the idea that is discouraging our progress upwards.
During the dark days of 1940, Winston Churchill understood this when many of his colleagues did not. In June of that year, only a few months after he succeeded Chamberlain as prime minister, he delivered his famous speech containing this stirring passage, “…we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”
This speech changed everything because many in the British government were indeed advocating a negotiated surrender to Hitler. People like Lord Halifax, encouraged by America’s very poor choice of ambassador to the United Kingdom, Joseph Kennedy, argued somewhat persuasively that lives would be saved by ending the struggle sooner rather than later.
Churchill uniquely understood that without total victory against Hitler, the Stinking Thinking of the Nazis would endure. Germany had to be obliterated in order to wipe out the evil ideology of Nazism. The Lord Halifax group was wrong. The goal was not peace at all costs. It was victory at all costs. Stinking Thinking can’t be negotiated away, it can only be obliterated.
I believe that Churchill knew this simple reality because of his deep familiarity with the Bible.
Referring to the plague of locusts, the King James translation says:
And they shall cover the face of the earth…
However, the Hebrew original says:
And they shall cover the eye of the earth…
What does eye of the earth signify? An eye is our way to see things. Eye of the earth is the means by which the earth, or the world, sees things. While discussing this with my family recently, my son excitedly interjected, pointing out that, ‘eye of the world’ literally means a world view; how everybody sees things.
The goal of the Exodus was not merely getting the Hebrews out of Egypt any more than the goal of England’s WW2 fight was merely bringing the fighting to an end. Had God’s goal been extricating the Hebrews out of Egypt, He could have done this much earlier. God’s goal was utterly obliterating the Stinking Thinking of Egypt. Without obliterating Egypt, their obnoxious immorality would survive and again inflict itself on the world at some later date. The eighth plague began the process of obscuring that Egyptian world view for all time.
This phrase, ‘eye of the earth’ occurs only twice in all of the Five Books of Moses. We see it again in Numbers.
He [Balak] sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of his people, to call for him, saying, “A people has come out of Egypt, and behold, they have covered the eye of the land…
King Balak is complaining to Balaam that Israel is threatening to wipe out the prevailing world view by substituting its own vision of Biblical morality in place of tyranny and evil. Balak rightly assumed that the powerful Balaam would eagerly help destroy the Hebrews and the threat they posed to the way everybody thought.
The only way to undermine an undesirable world view is to obliterate it entirely. Churchill understood this, and so must we. In whatever ways Stinking Thinking is obstructing us from reaching our real objectives, it has to be obliterated. And the only way to obliterate it is by replacing it with uplifting thinking.
You know how it is that when someone says to you, “Do not, under any circumstances, think of a pink elephant,” all you can see in your mind’s eye is a pink elephant? The only way to stop thinking about a pink elephant is by deliberately thinking about something else. Similarly, the only way to obliterate ideas that harm us is by replacing them with ideas that help us.