And boy! Did I ever hit one with my comments in a recent column titled, “We should avoid positive thinking like a plague.”
When this column ran in the Benton County Daily Record in Bentonville, Ark., I got a letter the following week from a reader who greeted me and then wrote, “When your fine column appears in our local paper, Mary and I sit down at breakfast, and with a second cup of coffee she reads it out loud and we discuss it.” This reader, whose name is Don, goes on to tell me how much he disagreed with me and that he could not believe these were my real views on positive thinking.
I wrote back to tell him that we were not that far apart and that we were just viewing this subject from two different perspectives. The reason I am sharing this is because I feel that many of you share his feelings and with your permission I would like to set the record straight. As you know, the three rules of communication are “be clear, be clear and be clear.” The real issue here for me is not that someone disagrees with me, or even that I may be wrong, but that I did not do a good job of expressing myself and was misunderstood.
Please be assured that I was not attacking “positive thinking” as a philosophy, but rather how many people in our society use it at the operational level. This true story will illustrate what I am saying.
Several years ago a seminary student had a personal ministry of going to the local children’s hospital to be with young, terminal cancer patients in the final hours before they died. During this time he had gotten to know a young girl who was beautiful both inside and out, and over the past several months she had both legs and one arm amputated.
The night before she was to have her other arm amputated her mother came into the hospital room with a copy of Norman Vincent Peale’s book, “The Power Of Positive Thinking,” to read to her. When she did, the girl started to cry. Her mother asked, “What are you crying about?” She said, “Because Mother you don’t know how to live and you won’t let me die.” This seminary student said it was one of the most painful ordeals of his life and he spent a lot of time trying to think this through. This is something all of us should do even with our most cherished beliefs.
Because of the way God made us, we human beings can do a lot of things. There are, however, a lot of things I know I can’t do and all the positive thinking in the world won’t change that.
Here is an example of what I am saying. A few days ago I was playing golf with two of my friends. While looking for a ball out of bounds I drove the cart into some high weeds and didn’t see a deep rut until it was too late.
The cart got stuck on high center and would not move even though the wheels were still turning. I got out and with all my strength tried to push it off, but to no avail. Here is my point. All the positive thinking in the world would not have changed our predicament. It was not until my two friends came and with a mighty “heave, ho” did the cart begin to move.
While positive thinking and expecting the best is a great way to live, we must also understand our limitations and always strive to keep things in the proper perspective.
If we can redefine positive thinking to mean, “never evading reality, never kidding ourselves of how bad things are and what the requirements are to make it, and never deluding ourselves as to what truth is, and to remind ourselves that we can do anything so long as it is within the realm of truth,” then it will be embraced and always have my blessings.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)