Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: The Power of Attitude

One of the things that has become increasingly clear to me at this end of my life is the power of attitude to help us creatively survive the inevitable vicissitudes of life. There are many things in life over which we have little (or no) control, but we do have the power to control our attitude toward what happens to us. Your attitude can make you miserable even in relatively fortunate circumstances, or it can bring you a sense of contentment in the most unfortunate circumstances. Attitude is the most basic tool in our emotional tool box to help us adjust creatively to the ever-changing circumstances of life.

If perchance you want to preach yourself a sermon on this important subject, I can suggest a very fitting biblical character from whose life you can take your text - the Apostle Paul. In a paraphrase of chapter 11, verses 25-28 of his second letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul recites some of his life experiences. "...imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea. On frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches." Good Lord, what a heavy load for one person to bear!

Later in his letter to the Philippian Church he wrote, "...I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of of being well fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:11-13).

Few, if any, of us will ever face so many hardships, but we all have our burdens to bear. It is encouraging to know we do not have to go it alone. We have help, both human and divine, and we have the wonderful power of attitude.

Let me give you just one contemporary example of the power of attitude. Many of my friends and family who have survived the debilitating effect of radical treatment for cancer will understand this example.

There was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed that she had only three hairs left on her head. "Well", she said, "I think I will braid my hair today." So she did, and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror, and saw that she had only two hairs on her head. "Hmm", she said, "I think I will part my hair in the middle today." So she did, and she had a grand day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only one hair on her head. "Well", she said, "today I am going to wear my hair in a pony tail." So she did and she had a fun day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror, and noticed there was not a single hair on her head. "Yea", she exclaimed, "I don't have to fix my hair today!"

In some circumstances the only tool we have left with which to negotiate a difficult situation is ATTITUDE. Learn to use it to help your self survive.