It’s important to have an accurate understanding of the power of attitudes. The attitude itself doesn’t create a mystical power which makes things happen, for the power is not in you. Good attitudes change our heart to look for good and receive good, while negative attitudes have the opposite effect.
Many New Age circles and various religions operate on the belief that we create reality by our thoughts. They falsely believe positive thoughts create good things and negative thoughts create bad things. While it is true positive attitudes find more opportunities and have better success than negative attitudes, I’d like to examine this from a more accurate perspective – a perspective which directly affects each of our lives.
Simply by observing people, it is clear those with positive attitudes find good more often than those with bad attitudes. Is this the power of the mind to alter the universe? Or is there a deeper meaning?
I’ve often wondered about this belief. Can you imagine, six-billion people altering reality to suit their own desires? If this were possible, the world would be a mass of chaos and confusion.
The truth is, we have been born into our specific circumstance, and we have to build ourselves upon our faith as we respond to our unique situation. Though I believe the Bible’s claim that God foreordained my life before the foundation of the world, I also believe the scriptures which say, “Choose this day a blessing or a curse.” It is God’s desire to bless, and indeed He has built His blessings into every life. This is also true for the people who seem to have been dealt a bad hand in life.
It’s not the bad hand we’ve been dealt that ruins our lives. Life appears sour when we lack the willingness to look for the blessings all around us. Let’s look through the lens of both the negative attitude and the positive one and see how our attitude affects the outcome of life.
The Negative Lens.
A negative person is focused on what? They gaze upon the things in life that annoy them. A negative heart focuses on what is wrong in the world around them, how they have been wronged, offended, lack the types of opportunities they wanted, aren’t pretty enough, skinny enough, rich enough, educated enough, and the list goes on and on.
When something goes wrong they cross their arms, plop down, and say ‘woe is me’. A negative attitude focuses on what bothers them, and this becomes all they see. A grumbling heart is stuck on what offends and it blinds the grumbler to the good around them. Their attitude strangles relationships and blinds them to anything but the offense. This negative mind-set becomes a cycle – for it creates more offenses while also clinging to the past ones.
All the grumbler sees are the things which are wrong. Indeed there are things wrong. Every one of us has many situations in our lives we do not like and wish we could change. But when the things which offend become our focus, life revolves around a cycle of negativism.
So is it the negative thoughts which create negative circumstances? No. Everyone has negative circumstances, and some people endure horrible things, yet overcome. The truth is, negative circumstances are part of living in a fallen world, and it will always be around you. The problem with the negative attitude is that it invites the passing trouble to take up residence.
The Positive Lens.
The positive attitude has the opposite effect on the individual. You’ve probably met someone who has gone through a tragedy and yet they seem happy and joyful. I’ve heard others ask these types of people, “How can you handle what you’ve been through so well?”
The truth is, they have probably shed many tears. They sorrowed over the loss they endured, but they dealt with it in a healthy way. Instead of making the tragedy their prison, they used it as steps to climb higher. They overcame – not because it didn’t hurt – but because they looked for the good on the other side.
The Bible says we should look to the attitude of Christ, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross while despising its shame.” We are commanded to consider His life so we are not ensnared by the cares of life, we don’t become discouraged in our souls, and so we can also endure through joy.
Consider what the Bible says about Jesus’ view of the cross. Jesus despised the cross. He hated it. He knew it was the source of His pain and suffering, yet He endured – not by focusing on the cross, but by looking beyond it to the joy that lies ahead. He endured what He despised by focusing on the good that would come through His suffering. And we are told to look to His example so we don’t become discouraged in our souls.
Did Jesus’ positive attitude change His circumstances? No. The cross still stood between Him and the goal. There was no other way but to endure what He was about to suffer. But His attitude changed. This is one reason we are told Jesus can identify with us as our High Priest, for He suffered and was tempted in all ways like us.
If we look at Jesus’ prayer before going to the cross, we see a wonderful example for our encouragement. He was alone. His closest friends did not take His foretelling of the coming suffering seriously, and when He invited them to pray with Him, they fell asleep. He woke them, but they fell asleep again. After His prayer time, He sat beside His disciples and said, “Take your rest now.” He then waited alone until His persecutors came to arrest Him before waking them again.
But I want to focus on His prayer as written in Matthew 26. Jesus prayed three times for deliverance. He began by pleading with our Heavenly Father to take the cup of suffering away. He ended by acknowledging the will of the Father as something to be obeyed over His own. In the next prayer, we see His words surrendering to that perfect will. The final prayer was an acknowledgment that He must endure this suffering, and His willingness to follow the plan that led to our redemption. Though He knew this ahead of time, He still had to struggle through His human emotions.
When Jesus said, “Not my will but yours,” an angel strengthened Him. Though the temptation kept pounding at His will, Jesus looked to the will of the Father as the source of good and placed His hope in the Father’s plan.
This is how we also approach life. There is nothing wrong with asking God for a way of escape unless it is to request God follow our will instead of us following Him. Sometimes we must pass through the suffering for a greater good. And unlike Christ, we don’t have the foreknowledge to see the reason behind our trials. But this doesn’t change how we approach the pains of life.
Sometimes God delivers us, but other times God gives us strength from heaven to endure it. It is not until we look back that we can see the good God intended. Add to this, the Lord does not correct this fallen world before us simply because we become Christians and are no longer part of its ways. We still must endure what the world around us endures, but we show the hope beyond the suffering. We endure with joy, because unlike the unbeliever, we have a glimpse into eternity and know God’s goodness awaits. And we also know the promise if we suffer for His will, we shall also reign with Him.
A negative person can’t see the strength of God offered from heaven because they are not looking at the Author and Finisher of our faith. They are looking at the world and cannot see the comforting hand of God. Nor can they see the joy set before them, which gives them the strength to endure. This is why the Bible says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Even though the one with the right attitude may have to endure suffering, they have eyes to see what the negative attitude cannot. In the midst of this fallen world is the goodness of God. The blessing can be obscured by the curse of a fallen world, but the one with the right attitude is looking for the blessing – and will always find it.
The blessing may be a way of escape. It might be strength to endure. It might be the hidden door of opportunity. It may also be the rewards of eternity. The right attitude is always rewarded. The right attitude also is always looking for good and finds it. Our positive attitude does not recreate reality, nor does it create what we desire. A positive attitude gives us eyes to look for the good – even among bad. It creates in our hearts the desire to find God’s blessing among the chaos and difficulties around us.
A good attitude doesn’t change our circumstances. It changes our focus. When we are looking for the good we know is out there, we will eventually find it. But a person who only looks at what is bad will be overwhelmed with the smorgasbord of bad all around them. The world is corrupted by sin and until God redeems all things, creation remains fallen and filled with troubles. But God will not allow us to be overcome by evil, so He has woven His good throughout a fallen world. But it is only found by those with eyes to see it.
Even an unbeliever can have a good attitude and look for good and the window of opportunity, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is God’s design. Or as Jesus stated, “Your Heavenly Father makes the sun rise on the just and unjust. He makes the rain to fall on the just and unjust.” In other words, good and bad are in this fallen world. Until we awake in eternity, we have to endure this world. Yet the goodness of the Lord can be found to any who will seek it.
What the pagan religions think they are creating with positive attitudes is actually the goodness of the Lord given to all. While they don’t have the promise of God’s inheritance, the goodness of God is seen by all – both the just and the unjust. Some blessings are only within God’s plan and provided to the Christian, but benevolent grace is given to all.
This especially applies to you. If you are cultivating a negative attitude, you will see the fallen world and the things that bother you. Suffering will be your housemate. But if you cultivate a good attitude, good will be found, even in the midst of hardship. Some think blessed people are a magnet for good, but the truth is blessed people are those who have cultivated the right heart and look for good.
A positive attitude must be cultivated. A cultivator uproots what is undesirable while nurturing what is good. A cultivated heart doesn’t just happen. It must be an intentional effort.
Excerpt taken from Eddie's book, The Promise of a Sound Mind