Attitude is Everything

This proverb is worthy of deep consideration. It is an ancient wisdom. Attitude is everything. A cheerful heart should be the natural attitude of everyone who believes in God, especially a Christian. Why? Because the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us every reason to be cheerful of heart, to be optimistic in the light of eternity. Because of Jesus we know for sure that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.

The writer, psychologist, and survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, Viktor Frankl, knows this wisdom of this proverb very intimately. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he gives a vivid picture of what life was like for those inside those death camps. He reveals how various attitudes shaped the choices that individual inmates made toward life, meaning, and purpose. Some chose to become “capos,” or overseers of their fellow inmates, in order to survive, or to gain more food and privileges. There were those who, “crushed in spirit” would “dry up” and lose a sense of life’s meaning and their own purpose. These would give up, commit suicide, or simply refuse to get out of bed one day and die within 48 hours. Others, and these were few, would see the greater suffering of a fellow inmate and would give them their own meager crust of bread, or watery broth, and willingly endure their own hunger for the good of the other. Frankl writes that these few were “sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

That one idea is crucial. We have the power, in our God-given human freedom, to choose our attitude toward any given circumstance we might find ourselves in. This is even more true when our chosen attitude is the result of our deep and abiding faith in God. If we have come to know God as infinite, compassionate and forgiving Love, do we not have every reason to choose an attitude of cheerfulness in all circumstances? If we believe this with our whole heart, mind, body, and soul, there is nothing that the world could do to us, or against us, that would have the power to take this cheerful heart away from us.

The natural attitude of a Christian, then, is that of a cheerful heart. Though the world is full of unimaginable cruelties and profound sadnesses, we know that ultimately God is in charge. We know that he is generous with his graces, that he will never abandon us. We know that he has understanding compassion toward us because he has experienced the depths of our human suffering in Jesus Christ. And we know that he has conquered sin and death, once and for all. In faith, then, we freely choose to live our lives with cheerful hearts. We desire to bring a cheerful attitude to all that we think, say, and do in our daily lives. We know that this attitude is rooted in wisdom.

Lord, save us from a crushed spirit that leads to despair. You are the source of life and love eternal. Strengthen us, Lord, that we might choose an attitude of cheerfulness in our daily lives, in all circumstances. Use our cheerful hearts to bring others to you. We pray all of these things joyfully in the power of your holy name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.