"I'll bet that boy next door took it," he thought. "That kid's always watching me work, and he's so quiet. He seems like the sneaky type that would steal something. I'll keep an eye on him...."
The next day, the man watched the young boy whenever he was outside. The boy seemed nervous and jumpy. "He's guilty as sin," thought the man. "I bet he knows I'm on to him. Look at the way he walks, with his head down, like he's ashamed of something."
Later that evening, the farmer decided to go into town and purchase a new axe. "But I'll keep an eye on that kid for a few days," he thought. "He'll slip up soon enough, and when he does, I'll catch him!"
The man walked out to the barn to saddle up his horse, and when he did, he saw the axe. There it was, just inside the door. He had brought it in for sharpening two days ago, and had completely forgotten about it.
The next morning, the man saw the boy out in the yard again. The boy was doing the same things he had always done; walking around, sitting on the steps, performing a few chores, but something was different about him.
"What a nice young man," thought the farmer. "He's so quiet and polite, spending time with his family, and doing his chores every morning."
"I was a fool to think someone like that could steal from me."
The farmer believed the boy next door was a thief. The boy had never harmed him, or taken anything from him, yet the farmer was convinced his neighbor was a thief. What evidence did he have? Only his own imagination.
If we allow our minds to proceed, unchecked and unquestioned, we will believe every thought we create. Our thoughts have the power to see a circle in place of a square, or to see the truth where there exists only a lie.
The farmer thought the boy had stolen his axe. From that very moment, once the decision was made, our farmer looked for every piece of information he could find to prove his thoughts were correct. He began to see what he wanted to see. Why would the farmer do that? Why was he so quick to believe the boy next door had stolen his axe?
We put so much importance on our thoughts, believing they carry so much value, that when they appear we don't question them. We believe that our thoughts must be true. They're so important to us, how could they not be true? We're smart, we're good, we're usually right, therefore, our thoughts must be all of those things too.
They're not. They're just thoughts. Our thoughts are easily manipulated by the desires of our egos. It can be our self esteem, our need to be right, the need for attention, or even to be a victim. Now throw in greed, lust, envy, jealousy, etc. You get the picture. The list of influences over our thoughts goes on forever.
How do we stop it? We start by questioning our thoughts. We can look at them. We can ask ourselves, "Am I being negative, am I judging and labeling, just because it satisfies or protects my ego?" If the thought is garbage, which many of them are, we can simply throw them away.
When we use our thoughts to judge others, we do not define others, we define ourselves.