As most of you know I read about a book a week. I’m a firm believer in the famous line that says:
“Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet.”
That was spoken by the motivational speaker and author Charlie “Tremendous” Jones and its truth is fairly profound. As an introvert I find it a lot easier to read a book than to meet people so I guess by reading so much I’m making up for that fact, even when I read books about how to get better at talking to people.
I tend to read mostly in 5 broad categories that help me with the over arching mission of The Meekonomics Project, those are books on Theology, Economics, Politics, Sales Theory and Self-Help. So this past week I picked up a copy of “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield. Canfield is best known as the co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series that has grown into over 40 individual releases and sold well in excess of 500 million copies world-wide. By all accounts he’s a pretty successful guy so he should know what he’s talking about.
I’m only about a third of the way through but something I read the other day struck me and I wanted to write about now before I forgot and my mind moved on to something else. In a nutshell I’m a bit concerned about the way Canfield, and other motivational self-help authors focus on personal empowerment over mutual submission, team work and servant leadership.
You see, the first several “principles” Canfield lays out have to do with taking personal responsibility and getting clear on what it is you want. They have titles like “Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life”, “Be Clear Why You’re Here” and “Believe It’s Possible”. All good things to be sure but Canfield (and he’s not alone in this, most self-help authors follow a similar formula) makes it seem as though you already have all of the ingredients you will need to be super successful. In my experience that’s just not true.
Now I don’t want to pretend I know anything about Canfield’s personal life but it appears as though he is to some degree at least a spiritual person. He has also spoken with and interviewed several religious leaders, many of whom have contributed to the “Chicken Soup” series and are quoted through this book. But there seems to be a serious spiritual disconnect between saying I am 100% responsible for my own life and then turning around and praying the way Jesus taught us in Matthew 6.
The Lord’s Prayer contains the phrase, “your will be done”, (Matthew 6:10) but if you are totally in tune with the party line amongst self-help authors that’s a big no-no. It means you are giving up a part of your personal empowerment to something outside of yourself. Even though that is exactly what is taught in scripture most self-help authors, including those who profess some form or Christianity like Canfield will gloss over that fact. Telling people to surrender their will to God just doesn’t sell as many books as letting them think they are in complete control of their destiny.
Self Help books are all about personal empowerment, they provide a valuable service to those who need a little kick in the pants to get moving toward their dreams in life. But before you start moving in any direction you first need to stop and make sure your dreams are in line with the God who put you here. God has a will, or as some have said a purpose, for you. If you’re dreams are not in line with His no amount of self-help or empowerment lectures are going to make you successful.
As A.W. Tozer, the American theologian and author of “The Knowledge of the Holy” and “The Pursuit of God” put it:
To set our will against the will of God is to dethrone God and make ourselves supreme in the little kingdom of Mansoul. This is sin at its evil root.
The kingdom of Mansoul, as opposed to the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God is where most people and most self-help authors want to live. That is where you and you alone are in complete control. But Jesus calls us to a different kind of kingdom. He calls us to the Kingdom of Heaven, where God is in control and his will is written on our hearts for all time.
Meekonomics is not a self-help or personal empowerment movement. If anything it is more about personal depowerment, if that’s even a word. It’s not until you release your hold on your dreams and surrender them to God at the foot of the cross that you will be able to move forward. But don’t mourn the loss of those dreams because once you surrender your will to him he will write a new dream on your heart that is even more powerful and more fulfilling than anything you could have thought of on your own.
Once that dream is firmly embedded in your soul then all of the self-help and personal empowerment writings from people like Jack Canfield take on a whole new meaning. We are then able to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and run the race set out for us in a whole new way. (Hebrews 12:2).
Remember, “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” really means that if you surrender your will to God he will give you everything! There is no better success principle than that.