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The Power of Positive Thinking

I hate feel-good-self-help books. You know the kind of books: I’m Okay You’re Okay, The Gift of ImperfectionThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I’m more of a I Don’t Need Your Damned Help kind of guy.  I guess it goes without saying that I also abhor feel-good workshops.

There’s one exception I’ll make to my unrestrained dislike of these books: The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

Peale was born in Bowersville, Ohio, in 1898;  he passed away in ’93; he graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and Boston University School of Theology.  Raised as a Methodist, he became affiliated with the Reformed Church in America and had a 52-year tenure as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan which grew from a membership of 600 to over 5000 under his administration.  In spite of his accomplishments, I probably would never have heard of Reverend Peale if he had not written The Power of Positive Thinking which has sold over twenty million copies in 41 languages.

Perhaps it was my age that made me like the work: I was in my early teen years when I first read the book.  The early teen years are full of fears, doubts, and questions looking for answers.

Positive thinking seemed like and seems like a good idea to me.  I can’t say for certain, but I believe the book had a positive influence on me.  However, when I went to Wikipedia, I got the impression that I had been admiring a work by the Devil incarnate.  Wow!  The criticisms!

For example, The Power of Positive Thinking is full of anecdotes that are hard to substantiate.”  Folks, he was writing a self-help book, not a history.

Wikipedia accuses Peale of trying to conceal that his work encouraged the use of self-hypnosis.  Hell, he evidently didn’t try very hard.  That was one of the main principles of the work.

Wikipedia accuses Peale of exaggerating the fears of his readers and that this exaggeration inevitably leads to aggression toward those considered “negative.”  What?  You’ve got to be kidding!  You cannot exaggerate the fears of a youngster, and perhaps “negative” people need to be slapped around.

The final criticism in the Wikipedia article was that it wasn’t religious enough.  Self-help book…self-help book.

There was a tiny section in the Wikipedia article entitled “Praise” which gave a nod to Bill Clinton’s and Reverend Billy Graham’s praise of Peale.

The Wikipedia article left me scratching my head.

It’s been years since I read the book.  It was first published in 1952.  I don’t remember the exact year I read it, but I suspect I was probably a freshman in high school.  I’ve never forgotten the book.  Its emphasis on developing and maintaining a positive attitude and the usefulness of repeating positive thoughts to help one accomplish desired goals have never entirely departed from my consciousness.

Now on the downside of Reverend Peale: he opposed the candidacy of John Kennedy because he was a Catholic---not a worthy reason.  I suspect some of the criticism of Peale germinated with his opposition to Kennedy and Stevenson, both Democrats.

I’ve looked over a few quotations of Reverend Peale, and I’m having a hard time finding the fingerprints of the Devil.

All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.

Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure.

The way you thing about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. You are overcome by the fact because you think you are.

Anybody can do just about anything with himself that he really wants to and makes up his mind to do. We are all capable of greater things than we realize.

Be an all-out, not a hold-out.

Be humble, be big in mind and soul, be kindly; you will like yourself that way and so will other people.

Become a possibilitarian. No mater how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities-always see them for they're always there.

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.

Believe it is possible to solve your problem. Tremendous things happen to the believer. So believe the answer will come. It will.

Change your thoughts and you change your world.

In spite of the criticisms of Reverend Peale’s book, I  recommend it, particularly to young people whose minds have not solidified into cured concrete.

Those who know me best may think of me as a rather gloomy and negative person.  Bless their hearts.  To them I suggest that they consider how negative I may be today if I had not been influenced by The Power of Positve Thinking, an ugly thought.

If you’re interested in reading the book, go to Amazon.  It may not change your life, but, on the other hand, it won’t turn you into a devil worshipper.