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Psychologist says ‘Niceness’ and Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work

A psychologist has said that “nice people” generally aren’t respected, are less successful and that “there is no science to prove that positive thinking works.”

However, the viewpoint of this psychologist directly refutes the teachings of the Bible which encourage us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:32) and “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35) and “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone” (Galatians 6:10).

Positive thinking doesn’t work, psychologist says

During a recent podcast, clinical psychologist Jean Cave delivered some bad news to the millions of people who have laid down their hard-earned money to support a cottage industry developed by self-help gurus: Positive Thinking.

Doctor Cave says that “there is no science to prove that positive thinking works.”

The theories inside all those books and videos may not work, but selling such material certainly has worked in terms of making millionaires out of people like Norman Vincent Peale (The Power of Positive Thinking), Rhonda Byrne (The Secret), Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich), Tony Robbins (Unleash the Power Within, Unlimited Power) and a host of other authors who promote positive thinking.

So the question is: Does it really work or have all these authors been scamming us?

According to Cave, we’ve all been played for fools.

Other studies show health benefits from positive thinking

Cave did not reveal what scientific studies she looked at to determine that there is no scientific proof that positive thinking works, but there are, in fact, some other studies that found in favor of positive thinking and what it can provide.

According to an article posted by John Hopkins Medicine, it said: “there is definitely a strong link between ‘positivity’ and health.” One of the medical centers health experts and her colleagues found that positive people from the general population were 13% less likely to have a heart attack or other coronary event.

They also quoted additional studies which found positive attitudes improve life satisfaction and outcomes across the spectrum of conditions which includes stroke, traumatic brain injury and brain tumors.

A study at the University of Kansas found that smiling, even fake smiling, reduced heart rate and blood pressure during stressful situations.

Psychologist says “niceness” is detrimental to success

Clinical psychologist Cave also said that being “nice” is detrimental in life. Cave says that ‘nice people’ tend to have a particular communication style, whereby they have high levels of empathy, high levels of unconditional positive regard, flexibility and congruence.

Coincidentally, everything Cave describes here is synchronous and compatible with the teachings of Christianity.

“Being sincere, authentic…being able to read somebody else’s frame of reference and being accommodating,” Cave says, “all of those things tend to be what we define as a nice person.”

Cave says that although ‘nice people’ are liked, it does not necessarily translate into being respected or having influence. She intimates that being nice can be a barrier to your success in life.

“Someone who is nice and liked, but not respected, typically has a hard time setting effective boundaries,” Cave says.

So what is the answer? Should people behave more like sociopaths?

“Not all people who are successful in business are sociopaths,” Cave says, “and not all sociopaths are successful in business.”

What the Bible says about positive thinking

Christians can describe positive thinking in a single word: Faith. Christians express their faith through prayer.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

–Philippians 4:6

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

–Philippians 4:8

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

–Philippians 4:13

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

–Jeremiah 29:11

What the Bible says about “niceness”

Even though no Christian would want to abandon being a “nice person” for the sake of success, there may be a biblical reference that actually upholds Cave’s position on niceness.

First, Cave is referring to success within our worldly system, something the Bible addresses at length.

Jesus said:

“As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”

– Matthew 13:22

“For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

–John 12:43

Jesus clearly articulated that, as Christians, we are called to be kind, empathetic, loving people.

We are to forgive and we are to be giving.

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

–Luke 6:27-31

Mary Newman