This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Are you more like Jesus today than you were yesterday? What can you do to think like Christ? What difference would it make in your life?
Joyce Meyer explains that Jesus is the paragon of maintaining a positive mind in the face of suffering. Therefore, as we try to live a positive life ourselves, we should try to emulate his mindset. While this may seem like an impossible task, Meyer reminds us that God invites all Christians to share the mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Read more to learn about the steps toward having the mindset of Christ.
Having the Mindset of Christ
Meyer outlines three steps that can help us think like Jesus. Having the mindset of Christ will keep our minds positive—no matter the circumstances.
(Shortform note: Meyer outlined six separate steps, but some of them mirror each other or repeat previous discussions, so we’ve condensed them into three.)
Step 1: Be positive
To think like Jesus, we should always look for something positive to think, do, or say. Meyer explains that Jesus was always positive in the face of suffering and adversity. She argues that in every situation, we can choose to follow a path of “death” (which we’ll continue to call negative thoughts and actions) or “life” (which we’ll continue to call positive thoughts and actions). Meyer argues that if we’ve aligned our mind with the mind of Jesus, we’ll find a way to see and do things from a place of positivity, even when we face situations that seem hopeless or joyless.
Thinking like Jesus means looking for the good in those around us. As Meyer has mentioned earlier, we all get a positive lift when we think kind and encouraging thoughts about other people because those kind thoughts become kind words and actions.
|Balancing Positive and Negative Thoughts |
In her bestselling book The Secret, Rhonda Byrne proposes a math-based reason for why we should always look for a reason to be positive about ourselves, about others, and about our lives. In contrast to Meyer, Byrne writes that it’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to be exclusively positive in every situation. The key, she explains, is to make sure that our ratio of positive to negative thoughts remains tipped in the positive direction.
Byrne explains that each time we think a positive thought, we add “weight” to the positive side of the scale. Byrne explains that as these positive thoughts accumulate, living a positive life becomes easier and easier. If we start the day positively, that momentum will carry us into a happier day. If we start the day on a negative note, we’ll only make it more difficult to be positive later because we’ll have added weight to the negative side of the scale.
Thinking about positivity as a ratio is helpful because it effectively shows why taking every opportunity to be positive matters. One negative thought in a sea of positive thoughts is unlikely to derail a positive mind. But if we’re negative as much as we’re positive, then any additional negative thought could be the tipping point into a negative day.
Meyer explains that aligning our minds with Jesus’s mind lifts us up not only mentally and spiritually but physically. When we allow God to guide us in a positive life, we can stand taller and hold our heads higher. Meyer adds that her physical appearance has improved since cultivating a positive mind because her positivity radiates from the inside out.
In contrast, Meyer argues that Satan’s attacks can physically bring us down. She notes that attacks from the Devil can cause us to hang our heads and slump our shoulders and even feel like we need to lay down. At the extreme, we may become clinically depressed by Satan’s attacks.
|Stress and Posture|
Research has shown that maintaining upright posture when we feel stressed can actually have measurable physiological benefits. A study of the effect of posture on participants’ response to emotional stress showed that sitting up straight helped people maintain their self-esteem and positive mood during an emotionally stressful situation. Sitting upright also helped people focus less on themselves (which Meyer has argued is an effective strategy in combating a negative mindset). Researchers concluded that proper posture may be an easy way for people to combat the effects of stress. In light of this study, Meyer might add posture as a weapon in our arsenal against Satan’s attacks.
Meyer notes that modeling ourselves on Jesus’s mindset can help overcome depression. She outlines several steps to overcoming depression and regaining a positive life:
(Shortform note: We’ve merged Meyer’s eight steps to overcoming depression into four to avoid repetition.)
Step 1: Recognize Satan as the source of the problem.
Step 2: Take early action. Meyer notes that the longer Satan’s seeds of negativity are allowed to grow, the more difficult it will be to get rid of them. If we start to feel powerless in our lives, we should use that feeling as a warning sign that Satan may be driving us towards depression.
Step 3: Focus on the positives. Meyer explains that remembering good times in our lives can lift us up and give us a frame of reference for what we’re fighting for.
Step 4: Look for relief in God. Meyer explains that if we feel depressed, we should not look for ‘worldly’ fixes to our problems but instead focus on our relationship with God. She explains people who are depressed often look for relief in the wrong places, but anything other than a positive relationship with God will be a bandaid, not a cure. Therefore, if we’re feeling depressed, Meyer explains that we need to open our minds and spirits to God, ask for His help, and allow Him to guide us out of negativity.
|Battlefield of the Mind Is Not Clinical Advice|
In outlining steps to overcome depression, Meyer opens herself to criticism by giving what can be considered unfounded clinical advice. Meyer recognizes the seriousness of depression in her discussion of suicide as a worst-case outcome of the disease, yet does not suggest that people struggling with depression seek professional help.
A paper from the University of Leicester providing a “psychoanalytically informed” discussion of Meyer discusses why her foray into providing clinical advice may be ill-advised. The authors of the paper note that Meyer’s teachings employ therapeutic language when discussing their followers’ mental problems but then fail to employ appropriate clinical approaches to address them. The authors note that Meyer consistently fails to acknowledge the “biological, social, and experiential causes” of psychological disorders and, as such, does not suggest medication or professional help as a treatment option. In fact, her admonition to avoid “worldly” fixes seems to specifically advise against seeking help from sources like professional psychologists or medication—advice that might cause people to delay getting meaningful help.
While her advice to seek help early and to focus on positives echoes some aspects of more traditional advice, her teachings depart from mainstream psychological recommendations in that it encourages people to see their issues as stemming from “supernatural” causes. Outsourcing our negative thoughts and feelings to Satan fails to acknowledge the complexity of human emotions and runs counter to psychotherapy, which encourages people to better understand and work through their thoughts and feelings. The authors note that for people who suffer from certain disorders such as bipolar and manic depression, Meyer’s use of supernatural imagery can actually make manic symptoms worse.
Step 2: Keep Your Mind on God
To think like Jesus, we need to make our relationship with God part of our daily lives. Meyer reminds us that we cannot have a strong relationship with someone when they are not on our minds. Jesus, she notes, was in constant communion with God. Since He is our example for leading a positive life, we should strive to do the same.
Meyer suggests finding places throughout the day to focus our thoughts on God. Taking opportunities to think about and appreciate God every day will strengthen our relationship with Him and help our minds stay positive. She gives the following suggestions of simple ways to incorporate God into our daily lives:
- Carve out moments to meditate on the word of God.
- Take time to appreciate God’s work in the world around us. For example, appreciate the beauty of the natural world.
- Begin every morning with a prayer to make sure we start the day on a positive note.
|Tending to Important Relationships|
Many people would describe their relationship with God as one of, if not the more important relationship in their lives. Therefore, it’s not surprising that Meyer’s advice for cultivating a healthy relationship with God parallels advice on maintaining a healthy relationship with our significant other.
Psychologist Abigail Brenner adds that a relationship we don’t prioritize will not continue to add positivity to our lives. She writes that relationships need “constant attention and constant tending” to stay healthy.
Like Meyer, Brenner proposes that simply taking moments throughout the day to prioritize thinking about and appreciating our partner will strengthen our relationship. Her suggestions include:
—Taking moments to check in with our partner throughout the day via phone call, text, and so on (mirroring Meyer’s advice to carve out moments to connect with God by meditating and reflecting on His word).
—Making sure that we set aside time each day to show affection for one another (Meyer’s take on this recommendation is to start each day with a prayer).
—Complimenting our partner to show that we don’t take their good qualities for granted (echoing Meyer’s guidance to notice and appreciate the positive qualities of the world around us).
With busy schedules and hectic lives, pulling our thoughts back to our closest relationships throughout the day every day can help remind us what’s important.
Step 3: Trust in God’s Love
Meyer says that many people don’t realize the power of believing in God’s unconditional love. When we believe in and internalize God’s love for us we feel worthy—worthy of His blessings, worthy of His love and love from others, and worthy of the positive life that He intends for us. Internalizing God’s love stops us from wasting time feeling guilty for things we’ve done in the past or feeling bad about ourselves and allows us to embrace positivity in our lives. Therefore, while it may seem elementary, Meyer suggests that people should spend more time appreciating what it means to be loved, as we are, by God.
In addition to celebrating God’s love for us, if we want to think like Jesus, we should also express our love and appreciation for others. Jesus was a positive force in the lives of so many people because he always shared a message of love. Meyer explains that we’ll bring more positivity into our lives and the lives of those we care about if we make it a point to tell people how much we appreciate them.
|Receiving Love |
Internalizing love can be difficult if we have low self-esteem. Psychologist Marissa Franco explains that people often have a harder time receiving love than giving it. She proposes that receiving love from someone else can make us uncomfortable if we don’t share the same love for ourselves.
Hearing loving things about ourselves that we don’t feel we “deserve” can make us feel confused about who we are. Are we the person we see or the person other people see? Franco explains that we may worry that we’ll let people down when we don’t live up to the standards others’ love has set for us.
We can get better at receiving love if we practice giving it. Therapist Barton Goldsmith explains that when we give love to others, we simultaneously increase our capacity to receive love. In this sense, the more love we give, the more we can get. Goldsmith explains that it’s important to build our capacity to receive love because feeling loved and lovable will help us live a happier life.
One way to add deeper meaning to the love we show to others is by sharing the reason we love them. For example, instead of saying “I love you,” we can say, “I love you because you are so thoughtful.” Goldsmith explains that hearing a specific reason we’re loved helps remind us of our good qualities. It’s especially beneficial to hear love in this format when we feel unloveable or bad about ourselves. Meyer would likely urge us to use this advice when we respond to God’s call to share His love with others.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Battlefield of the Mind summary :
- How the Devil makes it his mission to corrupt our minds with negative thoughts
- How to recognize the signs that Satan is attacking your mind
- How to thwart Satan’s attacks and find happiness and fulfillment