Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Is the Real "Secret" that Some People Are Better Than Others?

Have you heard The Secret? I can control people with my mind. At least, that's what the creators of The Secret, a DVD that promotes that Law of Attraction, would have me believe.

Well, that's not exactly how the purveyors of The Secret would put it. Those who put their faith in the Law of Attraction would describe the so-called Law something like this: You get what you think about, so if you think positive thoughts, positive things will happen in your life. It's the power of positive thinking!

Some of you are wondering, Why is Holly blogging about The Secret? Well, The Secret is one of those New Age products that's soft peddled as self-help. Then some celebrity like Oprah gets behind it. Then it becomes the latest self-empowerment craze. Christians begin jumping on board, believing it must be a good, godly idea because it seems to have a positive focus.

I can understand why people want to believe in The Secret. For some, it's a matter of wanting exclusive control in their lives. Still others like the idea of power, and the thought they might be mentally strong enough to control people. For others, it's a way to trust solely in themselves because they don't feel they can trust anyone else. And for some, it's motivated by a desire to believe in something bigger and better--a higher power. For that last group, it may be easier to believe there is a greater power within, and a lot harder to believe there is a Greater Power above who's invisible to their eyes.

The Secret is a New Age concept that's based on this logical premise: What you say and how you act affects other people. Well, duh! If a young man repeatedly tells a young woman how beautiful she is and he buys her chocolates, she feels appreciated. Like many New Age concepts, the Law of Attraction elevates human actions to the level of special powers, effectively giving human beings the potential for godlike status. New Agers believe your emotions or thoughts or actions have power. So how does any of that apply to Christians who are in to The Secret? We'll get to that in a moment.

First, let's examine the idea of control posed in the Law of Attraction. As a former New Ager who's heard various versions of the Law of Attraction before, I don't think my definition of "mind control" is far from the intended meaning. But no one would describe it that way to a mainstream, non-New Age audience because it sounds, well, loony and fictional to say you can control other people with your mind (not to mention egotistical and a lil' bit evil). Yet I'm simply following the Law's logic: Truly, don't positive events occur because of the actions of people? If I wish for a better job, what I'm really wanting is for my boss to promote me or a new boss to hire me. If I wish for love and happiness, I'm essentially wishing people will come love and care for me. If I wish for a wheelbarrow of money, someone will need to come carting it in, and I'll probably want someone to help me spend it or at least manage it. All to say, the idea behind the Law of Attraction has to be an ability to control other people, because circumstances don't really change unless there are people somehow involved.

Can you imagine if we all sat around trying to control each other with our minds? It'd be a mental Mexican standoff! That is, unless some people were actually better at mind control than others. Some people are better negotiators. Some people are better manipulators. Some people are better liars. Thus, some people must be better equipped to mentally force their will on to others.

After all, inequity is built right into the product. Purveyors of The Secret say they want everyone to know about it, yet you gotta buy their DVD. Even if they were giving it away, there's the cost of distribution, which limits who can receive it. It likely won't make it into Sudanese villages where there are no power lines, let alone DVD players to show the film. And consider its specially-designed-for-marketing name. Knowing the "secret" implies you are already better for that knowledge. It also implies that it will remain a secret to some; they either won't have access to it or won't be able to understand it. Really, if everyone on the face of the planet knew and understood The Secret, would it be a secret anymore? If everyone could equally employ the Law of Attraction, wouldn't it just make us truly equal? And who would be interested in The Secret if that were true?

Let's face it: We humans constantly strive to be better than our neighbor. We want to be wealthier, smarter, more renown or attractive. We want to be unequal. But God sees humans as totally equal: "All of us have sinned and fallen short of God's glory" (Romans 3:23, CEV, emphasis mine). And equally, we all have the opportunity to be
reunited with God. I found freedom when I recognized I couldn't earn God's love. When I finally figured out I didn't need to physically and emotionally purge all the negativity and badness out of myself in order to be acceptable to God, I was a much happier person. As a New Ager, I was well aware I could never be good enough, my thoughts could never be pure and righteous and positive enough, no matter how hard I tried. That depressed me. As a Christian, I now know God accepts me right where I am--flaws and scars and negativity and all.

OK, Christian folk who like The Secret, let's talk directly now. Maybe you wonder, What's wrong with being a positive person? Doesn't God want me to have a joyful outlook? Doesn't God want to bless me?


There's a big difference between

thinking positively and putting

faith in your mental powers.

There's a big difference between thinking positively and putting faith in your mental powers. The Secret would have us believe we create the goodness in our lives. When I consider the fruit of the Spirit, it's all positive stuff: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. No negativity there! Difference is, we're told these characteristics aren't a result of our sheer effort. They're like fruit that grows from a fruit tree, and that tree is the Holy Spirit, which God plants in us.

Consider where the Law of Attraction places your focus. In the Law of Attraction, I'm looking for good things for myself, and believing I can get them for myself. I'm likely attracted to people who are successful--socially, financially, educationally, etc. When we look to God, we trust that he has a better plan than we do. We believe "every good and perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17, NIV)--so we give credit for the good stuff in our lives to God, not ourselves. And if we don't get good things for ourselves right away--even if circumstances become difficult--we still believe "God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him" (Romans 8:28, CEV). Further, we're attracted to humble folks who can't give us anything. We're attracted to people who've been cast away and rejected because the Holy Spirit within us draws us to help and comfort them.

Essentially, the Law of Attraction promotes human beings to the status of gods. Personally, I don't think I'm God. I can hope and wish people don't hit me as I drive down the freeway, and even think good thoughts about making it home safely. But it's a mistake to believe that my thoughts are preventing me from getting into an accident. I don't believe I have that control and power over the drivers around me, or even the road conditions in front of me.

Do you really want to be the go-to guy (or gal) in your life, the man (or woman) with a plan, the be-all, end-all for yourself? Do you really want to put that much faith in your own abilities? Or would you rather entrust your life to the One who created you?

Jesus Christ lived his life reaching out to the lowliest people in his society: prostitutes, thieves, the poor, the disabled, the sick. Outcasts and unwanteds. These weren't people who could elevate him socially or financially. While some of his followers were connected and well-off, Jesus wasn't about big pimpin'. He was homeless. And he wasn't preaching a message of prosperity or the power of positive thinking. He said
God blesses those who are humble, meek, merciful, and those who make peace, those who are persecuted for doing right, those who trust God for everything. He said that God would comfort those who were grieving. (Notice, Jesus said God would comfort the grieving. He didn't say, "Boot that negativity out of your life, then your positive attitude will make everything fine!") He said people would be persecuted for following him. And yet, people followed him anyway. They were very, very attracted to him back then, and folks still are today.

I want to be an attractive person, too. But I don't want it to be just varnish--a positive attitude and a perpetual smile. I want God's love to be apparent in my life. I want to trust God a little bit more every day, and depend a little bit less on my own mind and methods. I want people to see the real joy that comes from dependence on Him. What could be more attractive than that?

To ponder:
1) Why do you think we strive for perfect lives? What does "perfect" mean to you?

2) When something good happens in your life, do you immediately say "thanks" to God? Is it hard or easy for you to believe that every good thing in your life comes from God?

3) Is it sometimes hard to believe God is constantly "at work for the good" in your life? (Holly says: "Sometimes it's hard for me to believe it, especially when everything seems to be moving contrary to my plans.") What events or occurrences cause you to question whether God has a good plan for you?

4) What do you find most attractive in other people? (e.g. a positive attitude, social status, kindness, appearance, generosity, personal achievement, confidence) What do you think is most attractive in yourself?

3 comments:

Sean said...

We are part of god. One person is not a god as such. God has infanant potential. We are extentions of gods ever expanding potential. As for what would happen if every one used the secret well for startes we all do. But if we all knew how we would be fine because we are all one we all together with everything in the universe are god.

Holly said...

Sean, please check out my thoughts in this new post, addressed to you:

http://h-n-t.blogspot.com/2007/10/what-i-believe-open-letter-to-sean-and.html

Rak said...

The "Secret" is nothing other than Satan's original lie in the Garden of Eden, "You will be like God"!