True Faith: Timeless Insights From Norman Vincent Peale
Pastor, best-selling author and motivational speaker Norman Vincent Peale D.D. has brought inspiration and spiritual renewal to millions, and in his own way, made this world a better place. Personally, I cannot imagine my life without his influence. Allow me to share with you some life-changing lessons from a book he wrote with Dr. Smiley Blanton called The Art of Real Happiness.
It is very empowering to me, and I hope it would touch your life like it did mine. As Dr. Peale wrote: “The unconquered and the unconquerable of this world are those who have mastered the art of faith. They draw constantly on this inner source of strength for they have acquired and hold ever fresh in their hearts an abiding faith in a Higher Power, and in their own destiny.”
Peace of Mind
The greatest trait of all is self-respect. “If a man’s esteem for himself is a poor, weak thing, his love for his fellow man will be no better.” Self-knowledge is the key to self-control. Each individual abides by his own code of honor. “A wise person will try to avoid feelings of guilt by avoiding the acts that cause them.” He will fine-tune his moral compass and anticipate the possible consequences of his actions.
“But as human beings, we are also prone to moral lapses.” It is when we violate our own principles that we feel anguish. “And so it is an absolute rule of successful living that one must be able to feel forgiven” if he “seeks God’s forgiveness, and his own as well.”
We need to learn to let go of yesterday. “To press on with a mind clear of a sense of guilt, time must be permitted to close over the past, and the energies must be concentrated on the present. Only so are we able to live at peace with ourselves.”
The human body is the most highly complex mechanism known to man – even a computer can’t do jumping jacks. It requires proper maintenance for maximum efficiency. The body and the mind are one, and we need to be in an environment that is conducive to mental, emotional and spiritual development ion the same way we need exercise and a balance diet.
Strike a balance between work, rest and play. Evaluate your abilities and goals honestly. Use your resources to complement your abilities so you can reach our goals. And after giving it your best shot, let Go do the rest.
Hope is a miracle in itself. A hero lies in all of us. Accept that negative thoughts can take root and destroy us from within. “To be rid of worries from the past, practice the art of forgetting.” Dr. Peale shares this Biblical gem as a personal mantra: “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark.”
Say positive affirmation everyday until they become second nature. He advises adopting Scriptural verses as our own, such as Christ’s reminder that we are more loved than the sparrows in the field. Learn to recognize trivialities and ignore them. He quotes William James: “The essence of genius is to know what to overlook.”
Honor the inner sanctum of your soul. “Practice the art of imperturbability.” Meditate. Empty your mind. Then fill your mind with prayer and inspiring thoughts. “Practice feeling God’s presence”. A young man whom Dr. Peale taught wrote: “With God’s help now, I am learning to meet my daily problems and overcome my fears. I have experienced an amazing change and outlook in life.”
Cardinal rule: “Never criticize anyone until you have prayed for him first.” Constructive criticism is a test of Christian love. “These are 5 key words for success in you relationship to others: Love, Politeness, Criticism, Praise and Thoughtfulness.” Dr. Peale cites a Chinese proverb: “The enemy is best defeated who is defeated with kindness.”
The glory of marriage is building a loving and serene home for the couple and their children. “Before you marry, be sure that you know that your minds as well as your hearts are attuned to each other.” A couple should evolve together. “Do not allow one of you to stand still, while the other marched ahead.”
Keep in mind that marriage is a union of two equals, sharing both the triumphs and the disappointments. “Learn the wisdom of talking things over frankly.” Discuss the problem with the aim of solving it. “Do not be timid about discussing money.” Open communication involves clear understanding about finances.
Avoid unfair expectations. “Your wife cannot be a mother to you, nor your husband a father.” Value loyalty. “Never discuss your mate with family and friends.” Treat your children as unique individuals and “help them develop.” Be part of a positive social circle. Surround yourselves “with friends who have ideals similar to your and who believe in the same things.”
Remember that marriage is a vow. “The determination to make it work is of the utmost importance. Its success may depend n this attitude.”
There is nothing as painful as the death of a loved one. But oftentimes, we punish ourselves with guilt. When somebody dies, his soul looks back and remembers only the good things, and “all he sees is the fineness of your character and the greatness of your love.”
First: It’s okay to cry. “There is a healing force in the free expression of sorrow. The period of mourning is necessary and natural.”
Second: Let go. Do not deny that he is dead. Avoid euphemisms, “just say ‘died’. It helps your accept it.” Treasure the happy memories and be thankful that such a beautiful person has blessed your life.
Third: Life goes on. “Even in the midst of grief, try, as best as you can, to go on with your usual tasks.”
“As a fourth great step in meeting bereavement, we suggest turning to the Bible.” You will find some comfort here. The Scriptures can teach us to trust in God with all of our heart, for he is our light, the lamp upon our feet.
People come and people go – alone. It is an act of love not to let them “become too dependent on us or we to them.” And above all, “we can best prepare for death through the unshakable belief that we shall meet again.”
It is wise to always step back and appraise our life. Age doesn’t matter; there is always time “to cultivate generosity, kindness, unselfishness, sympathy, tolerance. an appreciation of the value of every individual as an individual, and a willingness to let other people think and feel differently than we do without being angry at them.”
You are not your body, which “grows old, but the spirit need not. The real person need never deteriorate under the decaying effects of time.” It’s all in the mind. “As long as the mind remains alert, flexible, tolerant and undominated by hatred and resentment, it can function at peak efficiency well beyond three scores and ten.”
At any time in our life, “above all in our later years, we certainly should take as our motto: Live one day at a time.” To be forever young, you don’t have to Cory Quirino. “As long as one wakes up each morning and eagerly thinks what great things may happen that very day, one is young.”
And the ultimate fountain of youth is God. “To live with power and to achieve self-fulfillment is to bring God from the shadowy edges of the mind into its bright center. It is to master the most demanding, and yet the most rewarding, of all human achievements, the art of real happiness.”
[The Art of Real Happiness also presents the immortal 12-step recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and is a treasure trove of unforgettable characters.]
Norman Vincent Peale photo courtesy of ESPN. This story originally appeared in the 2006 My Favorite Book Contest, Lifestyle Section, The Philippine Star, May 14, 2006.
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