Attitude Determines Destiny

Attitude determines direction. Direction determines destiny. Therefore, attitude determines destiny.

More and more, I am coming to realize that our attitude (a term commonly used by motivational speakers to describe our predisposition, the underlying and seldom-questioned presuppositions, and general focus of our being) determines the direction we take. If we expect positive results, and act in accord with that presupposition, we more often get positive results; if we expect negative, we get negative. And the process is self-replicating: More positivity breeds more of the same; more negativity leads to a downward spiral.

I just finished reading a book that brought that to the fore in my realizations more clearly than I had ever verbalized it. The book is titled The Brother of Jesus: The Dramatic Story & Meaning of the First Archaeological Link to Jesus & His Family by Herschel Shanks & Ben Witherington III (2003). It is a well-written book (each writer writes half), based on the discovery around the year 2000 of an ossuary [a limestone burial box] inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” The authors do an excellent job of making their case, Herschel considering the archaeological authenticity and Ben focusing on the theological and historical authenticity and the ramifications they imply.

At the end of the book, Ben makes the point that historically there have been three primary stances on the relation of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and James that have been associated with major religions [it would take too long to explain these adequately, and is not relevant to my point here], and that, if indeed this box is authentic, only one can be true. In addition, he asserts that early on, the correct view got preempted with the incorrect ones over several centuries by biased agenda that church leaders came to the table with and consequently skewed the data and even falsified it in some cases.

This was a huge insight for me—not theologically, but internally. We have been dealing with issues in trying to take our business to the next level, and a few days ago, I had come to the realization that one of the key points in how we were differing was based on our prior assumptions. If we assume that a particular employee is self-serving, cutting corners, and scamming the company, then we look for data to back that up. If, to the contrary, we assume that he has the company’s best interests at heart, we look for data to back that presupposition up.

And we do that in all of life. John Eldredge, in his book Waking the Dead, indicts the present-day manifestations of most forms of Christianity for assuming that our hearts are evil, based on a few scriptures like Jeremiah 17:9. The result is a negative, self-flagellating form of Christianity that discourages almost everyone, including the one practicing it. However, to take the opposite position, if we assume that, when we are “born again” our hearts are renewed (having had the old, dead “heart of stone” taken out and replaced with a renewed “heart of flesh” per scriptures like Ezekiel 11:19 & 36:26), then we believe we can actually do good works without being duplicitous or hypocritical, that we can live a life of joy and expectancy, that life is worth living, and passion is worth having.

In a word, where you start determines where you finish. And how.

Motivational speakers sometimes ask, “What would you do if you believed you could do anything?” Definitely food for thought. What we more often ask ourselves is, “Why can’t I get through the day?” And the answer is that we see a metaphorical Great Wall of China, a Mount Everest, before us.

I heard tell of this recently from a guy well-on in years who moved into our area a few years back, took on the chairmanship of a newly-created visionary organization focused on where our county could be in 2025 (www.PickensVision2025.org), and was promptly told by locals that there was no way he could raise large sums of money. He (and others who believed) raised over $100K, some of which is still being used to operate on today—and it is time to take that too to a new level.

Maybe it’s not always true, but if I believe the worst, most of the time that’s exactly what I get. Conversely, if I believe the best is possible and worth pursuing, at least I’m far more likely to make it happen. I’m reminded of a small-town service-station attendant (in the days when there was no self-service) being asked by two different couples at different times what the new town they were moving to was like. In each instance, he asked them what the town they came from was like. The first couple described it negatively, the second positively. He told each, “That’s what you’ll find here, I’m sure.”

We carry our own baggage with us for the journey we’re on.

Jesus, in His image of separating the sheep from the goats, bases the judgment of their response to His attempts to move them on their attitudes toward those who unknowingly represented Him. Each side either saw or didn’t see Him in the poor, naked, needy people who came their way, and were judged accordingly. Interestingly, neither had at the time recognized Him in them—but their predisposition to be looking for Him (even in “the least”) was telling.

Attitude determines destiny. We go toward what we focus on.

Where are YOU pointed? What are YOU focused on? It matters.

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