The philosophy of positive thinking has no doubt in some version has been around for a long time. Author Norman Vincent Peale wrote a very popular book entitled, “The Power of Positive Thinking” that was published in 1952, thus he could be credited with promoting the latest version of the philosophy in the U.S. In more recent times, religious leader Robert Schuller made positive thinking popular and widely accepted among U.S. citizens.
Here is what this author believes is a good quote summing up the belief:
“Positive thinking is a mental and emotional attitude that focuses on the bright side of life and expects positive results. A positive person anticipates happiness, health and success, and believes he or she can overcome any obstacle and difficulty.” (www.successconsciousness.com/index_000009.htm)
At face value, this belief is very appealing to many people. It promotes “happiness, health and success” and it appeals to the ‘I can do anything’ crowd. Stated another way, the belief can easily be used to inflates one’s ego or boosts one’s self-esteem.
There are two questions that are relevant to ask about the philosophy. First, can it be found in the teachings of Joshua of Nazareth? Second, does it make people better human beings?
The answer to the first question is no, Joshua does not teach it. Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate what he teaches would be to contrast it with the positive thinking summary above.
“Faith is a core level trust in God that focuses on our Father’s love for us and our responsibility to seek and promote truth and rightness. A person of faith has Hope for their future with their Father; believes that love can overcome all of humanities worst problems; and works to help others.”
As you can see, the two summaries are incompatible. The positive thinking philosophy is inherently selfish…it is all about ME and how I can achieve happiness, health and success for myself. The way of faith in Joshua, on the other hand, is other’s focused and has us seek to give away, not take since it is love based.
With that contrast, we have also answered the second question. Any life-philosophy which encourages selfishness will not produce better human beings.
The reader might ask, what about the glass half-full versus half-empty truth doesn’t that support the positive thinking philosophy? No, it does not. All it proves is that different people can look at the same physical thing and use different words to describe it. For a selfless person in a certain situation – say taking care of a sick person who needs to hydrate - they could look at the glass half empty and say, “Oh, its half empty, good, I’m glad Rebecca drank half the water”. I would suggest the glass half empty phenomena is primarily situational and the same person could judge that differently depending where in their life they are at.
There is no doubt that certain people can have a general outlook of either optimistic/positive or pessimistic/negative. I also think that people with the former will likely have less stress and it has been proven that stress does put a negative load on our biological systems sometimes creating or exacerbating health problems. However, neither of those facts support that the positive thinking philosophy is true or that it is truly beneficial to people. As we have seen, the positive thinking philosophy is, at its core, selfish. And as we have seen, selfishness is a primary root problem of human beings.
The selfish focus of the positive thinking philosophy is very damaging in that it is in fact used to justify ignoring bad things in the world. For example, imagine the doggedly positive thinking person walking amidst the aftermath of a bombing scene, with badly injured people crying out in pain and suffering. Now, according to their philosophy, they will be trying real hard to find the “bright side of life” in that situation and so their natural reaction must be something like, ‘I’m glad it wasn’t me’; or ‘oh, don’t be so upset, you only lost one leg, not both legs’; or, ‘ the pain could be worse’. Of course, upon walking upon the scene, they could also turn around and walk away to save themselves the difficulty of maintaining a selfishly positive view in that scenario. What they certainly will not think about is “why did this happen”, because the answer will NOT fit into the white-washed delusion that they desire to abide in.
Ultimately, the positive thinking philosophies are most often used by people to justify their selfishness. They will use that belief to filter out things that will not contribute to their attaining “happiness, health and success”. If you are a selfless person with compassion for others (“ blessed are you who weep for others”), then you will see the injustice, pain and suffering in the world and you will seek to help people…you will work to bring what you believe is the solution to help others. If you are locked into a selfish view due to a positive thinking belief, then you will look to primarily help yourself attain the happiness, health and success you believe you deserve.
Two people were walking in the desert, dying from thirst. They happen upon a partial glass of water. The positive thinking person sees the glass and says, “wow, a half-full glass of water” and runs to drink it so as to attain happiness, health and success. The person with faith and love says, ‘wow, I’m glad you are now likely to survive…enjoy the water’.
Why not give up selfish beliefs and then come, join the peaceful revolution!