Expert Answer Forum

October 24, 1998 QUESTION from Jeff Affirmations I ask a question not of apologetics, but pertaining to my own spiritual development. I am under medication and counseling for clinical depression, and, thank the Lord, I am making great progress. My counselor has recommended my use of affirmations to change some of my self perceptions. I have no objection to the use of these to help me to be free from binding thought patterns to use the natural abilities the Lord has given me. However, the one she recommends is I deserve to be happy. Out of desperation, I began to use it, and have found it very helpful in changin a number of dysfunctional behavior patterns. However, I am aware that, although I should think of myself as no less deserving than the rest of humanity (universal fall from grace), and that Jesus would never begrudge me hapiness (part of what He died for-true spiritual happiness), I deserve nothing from the hand of Jesus, but all is a loving gift to me. How can I continue this treatment which has so helped me to be a better and more loving husband and father, while still maintaining the right attitude toward God? ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on October 25, 1998
Dear Jeff:
I cannot presume to second-guess a therapeutic process of which you are in personally. Obviously I don't know your situation or the counsellor involved, so I cannot speak to what is proper or improper in a specific sense that applies to your therapy.
But I can speak generally about the concept of what is called Positive Affirmations.
Positive Affirmations are an attempt to re-program our minds to accept more positive images about ourselves.
Anything that attempts to re-program our minds should be looked at VERY carefully.
In terms of trying to correct inappropriate self-images, or other dysfunction thought patterns, such a technique might be of value, but we should be cautious that the re-programming that we do is to help us to see ourselves as God sees us, and not as the world would like us to see ourselves.
On the issue of happiness, I am reminded of what St. Bernedette of Lourdes revealed of what our Holy Mother told her. Our Mother told Bernedette, I cannot promise you happiness in this world, only in the next.
I don't believe we have a right to happiness. Happiness is a worldly brass ring that ultimately no one ever really attains on their own.
The only true happiness comes from the bliss of God's love -- a spiritual joy that comes from knowledge of who you are in Christ.
Here are some possible affirmations that would facilitate this:
I am a child of God. God loves me. God forgives me because He loves me. My happiness is in the Lord. I have value because I am a child of God. I am worthy, not in myself, but in Christ Jesus. I am an heir with Christ to the Kindgom of God.
Jeff, some of the best therapy of all is in reading and reflecting upon Psalms 23 and upon the Beatitudes.
There is a book called, God's Psychiatry by Charles Allan. He is Protestant, but his reflections upon the healing nature of these two passages of Scripture are profound.
I have placed this book on our Special Order desk of our Online Bookstore. The URL is: www.saint-mike.org/Shoppe/Bookstore/Special_Order.html.
The best affirmations comes from the accurate affirming of who we are in Christ.
We have victory in Christ, Jeff.
1 John 4:4: Greater is He who is within you, that he who is in the world.
Focus on Him, not self. These affirmations given by psychologists tend to be self oriented. Focus on Him, for it is only through Him that we have hope, joy, happiness, and love.
We do need to correct our problematic thinking, Jeff, but not because we have some sort of right to happiness, but because we are the King's Kids, the joint-heirs of heaven. Only has we get closer to Him and submit ourselves to Him, can we really find happiness.
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