You Can If You Think You Can

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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One reason I’m not so keen on fame is that I’ve had a taste of it. Being in a fish bowl sounds great until it happens to you. But one particular incident taught me a lot about attitude. Negative vs. positive attitude, that is.

I was swept into the spotlight (and a lot of Washington politics) in my first really visible job. I was named director of a special program at the Council of Better Business Bureaus (New York City and Washington) dealing with children and media. I had plenty of smarts, years of media savvy, and a household full of young children (my own and their friends) who were helping me to grasp the influence of media on children. I was up for the job: meeting industry reps at the Harvard Club, lunches, television appearances, visits to congressional offices in Washington, newspaper interviews, and meetings with consumer advocates. And then one of those consumer advocates dealt me a low blow. He filed a petition with the FCC in Washington, including my (innocent, I thought) exchange of letters with him. Those letters were proof positive, he said, that my program was not on the level. I was shocked to see my own signature staring back at me. How could I have been so naive? My integrity had never been questioned in such a public way, and it shocked me.

Then my attitude plummeted, out of control. Where would I, feeling so inadequate, get the strength to deal with the Washington scene? Leaving the thick document on my desk, I headed out to lunch, hoping the Manhattan breezes would whisk my troubles away. And yes, I went to the nearest library, often my place of refuge There in a book cart, was a clear message. You Can If You Think You Can. The book’s author was Norman Vincent Peale, well known for preaching the power of positive thinking. In fact, I had read his famous best seller by that name. But I was struck by the grace of it: finding that book, that message, in my path, that day, right then.

To me, this is how grace works when we are open to it. I checked out the book and began to read. It was all about finding our strength in God, but not taking grace for granted. To handle difficult challenges, you can’t just drift along. You have to choose your attitude. Sometimes, like the suffering servant in Isaiah, you have to set your face like flint.

Funny. I had heard that message before, but that was the day I really got it. Maybe I had always resisted the idea of a winning attitude. Or the value of positive thinking. But now I saw it clearly: my way up and out. Having a mind like Jesus Christ, who saw the good always before him. Later at the office, a colleague stopped me in the hall. “I hope you won’t take that too seriously: your signature in the FCC petition. It’s politics,” he said. I grinned. My attitude was bringing me through the dark valley.