“For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he ...”—Proverbs 23:7 That quote is a powerful, life-changing statement. Our minds – or our thoughts – allow us to achieve greatness or to remain in abject poverty.
Anwar Sadat said, “He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality and will never, therefore, make any progress.”
We can muddle around in circles of our obsessions and waste our time in wishing and wanting, but we really don’t progress until we have a paradigm shift or, in other words, we see the world with different eyes. In Christian terms, we are born again and walk in newness of life.
I remember as a teenager, I was shy and introverted and had a major inferiority complex. I graduated high school, obtained a manicuring license, attended college and finally worked as a teacher’s aide in a public school.
Even with all the success everyone else thought I was having, I still felt useless and inferior. I hated myself in so many ways. I finally decided to serve a Christian mission to Italy.
I thought that would change everything but, as I stumbled to learn the language and meet with people, I was still the same old me. I got everything wrong and made foolish blunders that not only embarrassed me but those around me.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my problem was my thoughts. Negative input, negative output. I was supposed to be representing the Lord. I knew everyone else was perfect. They were articulate and polished. I fumbled and mumbled and made people uncomfortable.
I felt sorry for myself and rehearsed my mistakes over and over, in my mind, long after everyone else had forgotten them.
Every night, my companion, a sweet woman, would comfort me and say, “You’re not as bad as you think. You’re a good person. The Lord loves you. Anyone could have done that. It was no big deal.” But to no avail; I still felt like the scum of the mission.
One day, our leaders gave us a lesson on positive thinking, believing in ourselves and in the Lord. I soaked it in and decided I’d try it. For a week everything went well. I felt pretty good, but there wasn’t a drastic change in my life.
One afternoon, we had returned to our apartment for lunch. I had received a letter from home. I eagerly opened it and read it. It was a typical encouraging letter filled with words of confidence and “We know you’re doing a great job.” I knew I wasn’t doing great, and I started to cry.
My companion came in and saw me crying. “What’s wrong?” she demanded. I started with the same old story of “I’m not good enough.” Suddenly she became irate, grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me until my glasses fell off. She said “Sister Crandell, you’re just too lazy to change.” I was stunned. But she rattled on, “You are responsible for your own happiness.
One day, I will not be here lift you up. I will be gone – and so will everyone else. You will have to live with yourself. What happens in your life is between you and the Lord. You need to take it up with Him.”
Hurt, stunned and humbled, I decided to take my problem to the Lord. I went to my room and wearily knelt down beside my bed. I cried to the Lord, “Heavenly Father, I don’t like being the way I am. I want to change, but I don’t know how. Please help me. What I should do?” Then I listened.
Our leaders had taught us to listen in our prayers and the answers would come into our minds. The answer did come, but it was not the answer I expected. The instructions that came into my mind were as simple as if a seasoned teacher had spoken them.
“Promise that you’ll never say you’re not worth anything again; every day, tell your companion 10 things you have done right during the day.” I thought the answer was strange, but I accepted it. Then I shared it with my companion.
The first night, it was woefully hard to think of 10 things. “Got up this morning. I didn’t trip on the sidewalk. I was nice ...” and so on. As days and nights went by, my list of 10 things became easier. I started also telling my companion what I noticed about her. My words began to build a strong friendship.
What a transformation. My life began to be a splash of sunshine and joy unspeakable. I could still see my faults, and I worked on them, but I could also see my good points, and I began to magnify them.
Suddenly, I really began to like myself for the first time in my life. I loved other people, too, but they were no longer paragons of perfection. I could see them realistically. They were struggling just like me, and they needed reassurance as much as I did. I learned how to give that reassurance. I became a real person among real people.
My thoughts and my mind began to change. I kept my promise to never say, “I wasn’t worth anything.” Even though the “10 things ritual” went by the wayside over the years, I can say that experience has been the greatest pivot point in my entire life. It has been the source of much strength to myself and others.
I know by personal experience the “worth of a soul is great in the sight of God.” I can see clearly that before we can place true value on another’s soul, we must truly value our own souls. We must love ourselves before we understand how to love our neighbor. The Lord helped me to see that when I changed my thoughts, my circumstances changed.
As years went by, I learned about positive affirmations. An affirmation is a positive true statement about yourself that you put on the CD player of your mind and replay as often as you can. An affirmation is designed to change your thought patterns and your self-talk. Affirmations usually start with “I am ...”
For example, “I am a devoted follower of Jesus Christ; I act as He would act.” Another might be, “I am a brick wall on the football field; nobody gets past me.” Basically, an affirmation is a reminder of what we want to be or how we want to act, but we tell it in advance as if it was already a reality.
Our minds, like fertile fields, pick up the seeds and start to work in making the affirmation a reality. Of course, it is futile to repeat an affirmation and never put the words into action. That is simply lying to yourself.
Christ used many affirmations to help us understand His character more fully: “I am the bread of life.” “I am the resurrection and the life.” “I am living water.” “I am the way, the truth and the life.” All of these affirmations are mind pictures we can comprehend in a very real way. Bread is food, and food is necessary for our physical life. If we don’t have it, we are willing to do almost anything to obtain it.
In order for our spiritual lives to be filled, we must seek Christ as diligently as we would food. Water refreshes us and gives us nourishment. We cannot live very long without it. In like manner, our eternal life depends on Christ as our living water; we cannot live without Him.
Jesus is literally the only way back to Heaven. He is literally the spiritual light that helps us see more clearly the truths of this life. Just as He gave me truths that would change my life, He can do the same for each of us.
He is literally life, and He can help us walk in newness as we are born again. He is the one who has made the resurrection possible. In a literal sense, He is resurrection because without His sacrifice, none would rise from the grave.
Affirmations are a special kind of self-talk that will build faith and give our mind a place to go when we are drifting. If we build our affirmations around the life of Christ and His teachings, we will be able to change to become more like Him. PD