My church is a big fan of affirmations. When I first heard them I decided that they were lame and useless. So, I never said them. Then, as I grew older, I started to wonder why these affirmations made me uncomfortable. They kind of reminded me of spells and witchcraft.
I've just come back from a conference designed to help us experience greater freedom and break generational bondage. I've been avoiding going for years, but God finally told me to go. So, I did. We prayed through things and broke off ties. All was well. And then affirmations came up. Apparently, in order to keep living in the freedom that we've gained from this weekend, we need to be saying our affirmations. The suggestion is that we do this 3 times a day for 40 days. I want to paint a fair picture, though. They also suggested that to keep growing in God we keep spending time with him, attending church, etc.. That's good. My issue here is that instead of meditating on the Word of God and praying to continue to affirm the fact that I am free of whatever bondage I supposedly had, I am supposed to repeat a paragraph of positive self-focused words about my new-found freedom. I feel like I'm getting snarky, because I'm a bit passionate and frustrated, so let's stop with the story and move to some content.
Let's jump into this. Why (I believe that) Christians Should Not Practice Affirmations.
What are affirmations?
According to affirmations.com.au, an affirmation is 'a positive statement or judgment that is declared to be true'.
This sounds fine, but let's dig a little deeper.
The idea of an affirmation is that you speak something into existence. By saying positive words over yourself, you change your beliefs and your situation.
According to successconsciousness.com, affirmations
'are positive statements that describe a desired situation or goal, and are often repeated, until they get impressed on the subconscious mind. This process, causes the subconscious mind to to (sic) strive and to work on your behalf, to make the positive statement come true.'
'Your subconscious mind accepts as true what you keep saying. It attracts corresponding events and situations into your life.'
Words create life or death
I fully believe that words have the power to create life or death. It's Biblical.
Why were words created?
To communicate? No. To create? Yes.
In Genesis 1, God spoke the world, and everything in it, into existence.
'God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.' -Genesis 1:3.
The creative power of words is also explored in other parts of the Bible-
'The mouth of the righteous is a spring of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.' Proverbs 10:11
'There is one who speaks rashly like the piercing of a sword, but the tongue of the wise heals.' Proverbs 12:18
'Death and life are in the power of the tongue; those who love it will eat its fruit.' Proverbs 18:21
Clearly, our words have power. They are able to bring life and healing.
So, what's wrong with affirmations, then?
Affirmations are rooted in New Age-ism and New Thought doctrine.
Affirmations became popular with the birth of the '90s New Age movement. Today they are encouraged by many New Age websites and individuals.
The Salem New Age Centre supports the use of affirmations as powerful tools to change someone's life. (http://www.salemctr.com/newage/center32.html)
Louise Hay, who is considered to be a part of the New Thought movement, uses affirmations to 'create your best life'. (http://www.louisehay.com/affirmations/)
The connections between affirmations and demonic theories regarding the law of attraction are undeniable. By speaking out the reality that you wish to see, you encourage the universe to send it to you. Therefore, if you claim wealth, then wealth you shall have. Think Rhoda Byrne's The Secret. (NB- I haven't read this book. I've only read reviews)
Their connection to spiritualism is alarming.
'The art of the spoken word is critical in crafting our futures. As a teacher of spirituality, it is my firm belief that we influence the universe word by word. If we dictate to it our wishes, it will respond. When we utter a sound, we emit a sound wave into the universe. This sound wave pierces through the air and becomes a real object. It therefore exists in our world, intangible and invisible. No words are empty words, as every syllable we speak engages energy towards or against us. If you constantly say “I can’t,” the energy of your words will repel the universal force against you. But if you say “I can!” the universe will endow you with the abilities to do just that. So speak away; relinquish your fears and purge your anger, predict your own future and live up to your potential with the 35 affirmations that will change your life.' -Dr Carmen Harra (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-carmen-harra/affirmations_b_3527028.html)
Their use in witchcraft should also ring alarm bells for Christians. I don't want to go into too much detail here. A quick Google search of 'affirmations witchcraft' will bring up many results.
Here is one quote from (http://heather.bishoffs.com/im-a-witch-affirmations/)
'According to dear ole Wikipedia, an Affirmation is a declaration that something is TRUE. It isn’t just a magickal concept – you could consider it “positive thinking”. Many people utilize it in other aspects of life, like the business man who adjusts his tie in the bedroom mirror and tells his reflection, “I will win this account.”
But when it comes to my life, it is simply…witchy.
I believe that what we BELIEVE manifests itself in our lives. That’s the sole purpose of a witch who practices magick in ritual – to manifest the change we want to see. What many witches tend to forget is that “ritual” doesn’t need to be elaborate and have use of every tool in our arsenal – a simple affirmation is ritual on its own.'
Yes, positive affirmations are used daily, but the ritual of repeating them daily is another thing. 'I can do this' is an affirmation. It's useful and fine to do. However, repeating daily whatever change you wish to manifest is not the same thing. Affirmations are used for 'conjuring life’s coveted delights through ... state of mind and wording.' (https://pathwaysofwisdom.wordpress.com/tag/new-age/)
I'm not an expert in affirmations and their origins and associations. Please, do your own research. There is plenty of information available on the internet.
Let's move on.
But aren't we called to declare God's Word over our lives?
Christians are called to meditate on the Word of God and to pray at all times.
Meditating on the Word of God-
'This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.' Joshua 1:8
'Blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in Yahweh's law. On his law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither. Whatever he does shall prosper.' Psalm 1:1-3
'How I love your law! It is my meditation all day.' Psalm 119:97
Praying at all times-
'Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world's rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace; above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints.' Ephesians 6:11-18
'Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.' 1 Thessalonians5:16-18
Never in the Bible did anyone 'say their affirmations'.
By meditating on the Word of God, we affirm the truth of God in our lives and strengthen our spirit.
One argument that I've heard is that when you say your affirmations when you don't need them, as you need them, you will remember them. That's probably true. However, as Christian men and women, our job is not to remember affirmations. Our job is to meditate on the Word of God and to hide it in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). The living Word of God is always more powerful than the man-made words on a page that we speak over ourselves. By studying, and meditating on, the Bible, we place the Word of God deep within our hearts and spirit. When we need this truth, it is there for the Holy Spirit to call to our memory. It is the living Word of God that His Spirit calls forth in times of trouble and trial.
Not I, But Christ
The verses above are pretty clear that meditating on the Word of God causes a man (or woman) to prosper. It does not say that repeating affirmations causes his success.
I can repeat that I am loved until the cows come home, but unless I know the scripture that affirms this, it is useless. I know that I am loved because the Word of God tells me so.
'For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.' John 3:16
It is essential for Christians to see these truths in the word of God.
Repeating positive Biblical truths over your life every day is not necessarily a bad thing. But unless you know the scriptural basis of this truth, then you are just putting a band-aid on an issue. Memorise scriptures and affirm the truth in prayer. Then you will see the Word of God transform your life.
Focus here for a moment- God's Word transforms your life. Emphasis being on God, not your efforts. Saying affirmations is you trying to transform your life. Meditating on scripture is you allowing God to transform your life.
So, yes, think positively. Believe that you can, with the grace and aid of God, achieve things.
But don't cut God out of the picture. It's his Word, grace, and power, not your affirmations, that bring about eternal change.
I want to reiterate that telling yourself that you are capable of achieving great things, and speaking positively are both good things that you should be doing. But, as Christians, if you want to see lasting transformation in your life then you need to be meditating on God's Word and spending time with him in prayer on a daily basis, not repeating chants and dreams.
NB- the quoted verses above are from the World English Bible translation, which is similar to the New American Standard Version.
If you see any issues in what I've written, then, by all means, let me know. I'm not infallible, and I'll never claim to be. I'd love to hear your response.