Search This Blog

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Positive Thinking

I remember, as a young man just out of school, starting off on that proverbial quest to figure life out. I was determined to be successful. I just had to figure out how. So I became a voracious reader of books - mostly the self-help kind.

Perhaps one of the most memorable self-help books I read was called "The Power of Positive Thinking," by Norman Vincent Peale. I followed it by reading, "Think and Grow Rich," by Napoleon Hill. And there were others to follow.

They seemed to offer the perfect mantra for success in life. There was nothing left to chance here. There was nothing divine either. God didn't control the circumstances in your life any more than luck did. No, you controlled the circumstances in your life. It was really that simple. I believed it too. It was like a new religion for me.

So I would take situations and circumstances in my life and simply try to make them whatever I wanted them to be. I knew it would work. I was confident in my tactics. After all, I'd done the research and trusted these wise men. But it seemed over time that I had a problem. The so-called "power" of positive thinking wasn't really having any effect on my circumstances or situations or dilemmas. And I was certainly not "growing rich!"

I think the flaw in positive thinking is that it is vastly misunderstood. We tend to think of it in terms of an either-or choice. We view it as black-and-white, yes-or-no. You think positively or you think negatively. But alas, as it turns out, this is not the case. There are more than two choices in life's thinking patterns.

The alternative to positive thinking is not, as society would have us believe, despair. In fact, the alternative to growing rich is not poverty either. In fact, negative thinking can be just as delusional as the positive thinking. Depressed people, for example, project their misery onto the world, imagining the worst outcomes from every endeavor and then feeding their misery on these distorted expectations. They are without hope. And they think that is how it is.

In both cases, there is an inability to separate emotion from perception, and/or there is a willingness to accept illusion for reality. The individual doesn't understand that circumstances and truth are not (usually) the same things. He or she has never learned that feelings are great liars. How one feels is almost never how things are.

The better alternative is to get outside of ourselves and see things freedom God's perspective (which ironically, is the way things really are) . That would mean seeing things without the distorted coloration from our own feelings. It would mean seeing things without the filter of how we wish things were or weren't. We could come to understand, without the so-called "power of positive thinking," that the world is full of both danger and opportunity at the same time. We could see that the chances of great happiness truly do co-exist with the certainty of death.

Somewhere along the line, I read another book, the title of which I cannot seem to recall. But it was a book about failure. It may have been called something like, "My Success As A Failure," or something similar. At any rate, it introduced me to the notion that failure has value. That was certainly a paradigm shift from all those other books I'd read! But as I journeyed through life, I began to see that it is true. Positive thinking is certainly not the be all to end all. And failure is not the end either. In fact, failure is often the beginning. Imagine that!

Now all of this was before I became a Christ-follower. I knew about Jesus, and I claimed to be a Christian. But I wasn't following Him. And I certainly wasn't listening to Him. I had no relationship with God. And I never read His book (The Bible).

But when I turned my life over to Christ and began developing a personal relationship with God, things changed. When I began to listen to God and spend time reading His Word, things made more sense. There began to be fewer dichotomies. Unfortunately, it began to render those other books I'd read as heresy. I began to see that they were absolutely not true. In fact, they began to look downright delusional when compared against God's truth.

You see, the alternative to positive thinking - or negative thinking - is really just truthful thinking. There should be a book called, "The Power of Truthful Thinking." You see, God's Word tells us the truth. About everything. It's all there. And when we can get our minds grounded in His truth, our thinking is clear. Our decisions are sound. Our expectations are realistic. And our life works.

The power of truthful thinking is way bigger than mankind would probably expect too. You are not disappointed. You are not disillusioned. You are not confused. You don't have to waste time wallowing around in lies trying to figure life out. No, it all comes together nicely. Now to be fair, some of what's true is not how I would like it to be. Nevertheless, knowing that it is true makes it easier to handle, even if I don't particularly like the truth sometimes.

Perhaps the hardest reality about truth is that it is true whether I believe it or not. And if it is true, the fact that I don't believe it doesn't make it any less true. The moral to that story is that truth exists - or doesn't exist, outside of my own thinking. (Did you catch that?)

You see, truth and circumstances are almost never the same thing. My feelings will lie to me every time about how things really are. And the only way to correct this human dilemma is with God's truth. In fact, I would venture to say that instead of there being power in positive thinking, perhaps the real truth is in the danger of positive thinking!

No comments:

Post a Comment