A person becomes what he thinks about. Have you ever evaluated what you think of yourself and the world in which you live? Paul gives us an outline of positive thinking in Philippians 4:8-9. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
All these virtues are found in the New Testament teachings of Jesus. We are to think of whatever is "True" or valid, reliable, and honest. Truth characterizes God Rom 3:4 and should also characterize believers. "Noble" is used in the New Testament of church officers, that is, possessing a quality that makes them worthy of respect. "Right" refers to what is upright or just, conformable to God's standards. "Pure" emphasizes moral purity. "Lovely relates to what is pleasing or agreeable. "Admirable" denotes what is praiseworthy, and rings true to the highest standards. Paul concludes "if anything is excellent and praiseworthy" then we should continually centre our minds on such thoughts as these. We can defeat narrow, negative thoughts that poison the mental processes by thinking as Christians should positively!
Positive, beautiful thoughts trigger the release of beneficial hormones in the body and these in turn help the body to heal itself, explained Dr. Oyle, a lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz. When you think a beautiful thought you release healing hormones in your body, Dr. Oyle said. Its a question of mind over matter. If you can control your thoughts look at life as a happy experience then your body will be healthier. Now, if you have a view of the world where you really believe life is a series of ongoing catastrophes, calamities and crises, those beliefs put your body in a fight-or-flight state in which your body is constantly geared to defend itself against hostilities. When we get into these anxiety-ridden states we interfere with the bodys normal healing process. If you presume that you live in a hostile universe, the reaction to that presumption is what wears out your body. Prayer combats anxiety and promotes healing. Prayer is absolutely beneficial. When you pray, you assume that there is some force in this universe which is on your side some powerful force. The minute you do that, your body relaxes. And if you really believe that God will respond to you, you have immediately instituted the healing process. Faith itself creates the hormones that make you live longer. Its fantastic.
I have seen these same results in the lives of good managers. The manager who bumps from crisis to crisis, who dwells on the problems, and worries about what might happen will never be a good manager. For one of the key ingredients in good management is the positive attitude of the manager. I know of a capable and well-educated person who has been very successful in his chosen field in his personal achievement but who has been totally unsuccessful in management. The major reason is that this person lives with negative and self-centred attitudes. Other workers see that and they do not co-operate.
The navy talks about a ship's company. In the entertainment world, we talk about a theatrical company. The word company is an English form of the French for "companion." It carries the idea of fellowship, literally of sharing your bread. Managers who forget that they are members of a human "company" risk making all kinds of unnecessary mistakes in relating to people. The right attitude to people and your employer is vital.
To have a positive attitude to your work and to your employer transfers to other employees. It is amazing how small and negative attitudes by managers, come to the attention of the executive staff. Good management exudes good attitudes. A person's mental attitude plays a far more important part in success or failure than does mental capacity. Human beings are free to control their own destinies, to actualise their own lives. Neither our environment nor our genetic make-up holds us prisoners. Even when we are faced with physical constraints, our minds are still free to react in a way which is non-programmed and individual.
I remember hearing the noted psychiatrist Dr Viktor Frankl, who made a death-camp discovery during World War II. When he faced his Nazi accusers, Frankl was stripped naked, seemingly left without one shred of human dignity. It was then that Frankl discovered the key to self-esteem. The Nazis, he concluded, could control everything except how he might respond to their atrocities. He could die with dignity because he was in control of his response to external forces. Out of that experience Frankl developed a psychotherapeutic process called logotherapy and wrote an inspiring and insightful book entitled Man's Search For Meaning. From his death camp observations, he documented the amazing coping powers of humans to retain inner freedom. He wrote: "We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last pieces of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedomsto choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
This last inner freedom, the freedom to choose one's own way, gives us an amazing capacity to cope. Paul witnessed to it: "I know how to be abased and how to aboundI can be content in whatever state I find myself." Some political parties generate fear and anxiety in their members by constantly reminding them of the dangers, the sinfulness and violence of this world. Leading medical specialists earlier this month warned how stress about these, especially those over which we have little control, can make people sick.
They specifically pointed out how some people become aggressive, stressed and depressed when reading about Climate Change. Dr Grant Blashki, a senior research fellow in the University of Melbourne's Primary Care Research Unit, said on the 7th April 2008, that GPs and other health care professionals will need to develop strategies to help patients deal with concerns. He said patients who came to him with depression or anxiety were increasingly citing climate change news as something they were having trouble coping with. "These people tend to have a low threshold to taking on worries. When they pick up the paper and see a small part of Antarctica disintegrating, they take it on board," he said. "They pick up on the negative things going on in the world. It comes down to maintaining hope, to get people motivated, not despairing. Action is a great stress reliever."
You cannot necessarily destroy cancer by the way you think about it. But you certainly can control the way you approach that terrible medical condition. Its not what happens to you in life that makes the difference. It is how you react to each circumstance you encounter that determines the results! Each human being in the same situation has the possibilities of choosing how they will react either positively or negatively.
If you face those frustrations, anxieties, and miseries which contribute to our dissatisfaction and sense of failure, and pray about them instead of wanting to attack other people and hit out against God and those close to you, you set up the conditions for your body to respond in a healing manner. Consider your problems, your discontent, your sins. Then think about Gods plan for your life and his available forgiveness and power to change you. When you are right with God, remember there are two extremes in viewing oneself: thinking too highly and thinking too lowly. The Bible warns against both. How can you strike a balance? Here are some suggestions:
Step 1: Accept yourself. Ninety per cent of people are unhappy with the way they look. Most of us will never be ideal. So stop complaining about what you are not, and learn to accept what you are, faults and all. Internal qualities are more important than external characteristics.
Step 2: Improve your inner self. The average Australian spends almost $500 every year to improve his or her external appearance and less than $50 to improve his or her mind. Buy fewer clothes and more books. Attend fewer movies and more Bible studies.
Step 3: Tap your inner joy. Do activities you enjoy. They do not have to lead anywhere, produce an economic pay-off, or enhance your career. Do something for others. Cheerfully giving yourself to others produces great inner joy.
Step 4: Be positive about yourself. Concentrate on what you can do, not on what you cannot do. Remember compliments and praises you get from others. Note anything you do well.
Step 5: Forget about perfection. Life is in the living. If you enjoy baking, it does not matter if your cake is lopsided. Learn to laugh at yourself.
Step 6: Take a chance. The thing people often regret most in life is not taking more risks. Be brave. Step out boldly. To risk is to grow.
Step 7: Learn from others. Pick positive role models who have a great deal of self-esteem. Study them. Notice what they do and how they do it. Look for clues that will help you. Copy some of their good habits. Avoid those people who are always complaining about others, who concentrate on their fears rather than their faith, who centre on other peoples sins rather than their possibilities.
Step 8: In the entire universe, there is only one you. Celebrate your uniqueness! God made you and re-created you in the image of His Son. This is your greatest asset. Accentuate your uniqueness. Make it the foundation for greater self-esteem as you continue to grow and develop. You are the one who put me together . . . and I praise you because of the wonderful way You created me. Everything You do is marvellous! Of this I have no doubt. (Psalm 139:13-14)
Thats the kind of thinking Christians should employ.
Rev The Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes, A.C., M.L.C.