One thing that has become increasingly clear to me is the power of our attitude to help us survive the challenges 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 our circumstances and the things that happen to us.
Attitude is one of the basic coping mechanisms we can use to help us adjust creatively to the ever-changing dynamics of life.
One Biblical hero from whose life we can find a great example of attitude’s power in defining and transforming the moment for the good is that of 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 40 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.”
My friend, Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, a Methodist preacher offers a more modern, but no less powerful example of the importance 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!’”
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. In some circumstances the only tool we have left with which to negotiate a difficult situation is Attitude. Learn to use it to help yourself survive.
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The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.
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