While home with the flu this past year, I had the rare occasion to play couch potato. Momentarily sapped of my energy, I subjected myself to hours of daytime television, slipping in and out of consciousness as I endured chills and body aches. At one point, I awoke to Oprah and a show dedicated to common people struggling with the recession. One after another, audience members confessed their unique tale of woe. At one point, a church minister and his wife spent a few minutes complaining how they always do the right things, stay faithful, pray, dedicate themselves to community service, but now because of the recession “we’ve lost everything.”
My immediate reaction was: you haven’t lost everything, but you sure as heck lost a golden opportunity to provide something valuable to the discussion.
Of course, if they had taken my cue and tried to put a positive spin on things, they wouldn’t have been asked to be on the show. The theme was misery. It’s a common theme on television these days. It sells. It’s something people can relate to. And to hear the misery from a person of God must have been a boon to the misery business. After suffering through their testimonial, I changed the channel to cartoons and drifted back to sleep. But days later, the sad image of the minister and his distraught and sobbing wife pouring their heart out on Oprah still visited me.
And the absurdity of their message—we lost everything—continued to bother me. Months removed from the flu and the Misery episode on Oprah, I’ve decided to re-write the script for that episode. But before I share my revised script, let’s look at a few facts.
The minister and his wife who claim to have lost everything were wearing clothes. They did not appear to be malnourished. And I assume they did not have a permanent home in Oprah’s recording studio, so I think it’s safe to assume they had a roof over their head and some mode of transportation to get them to Chicago for the taping of the show.
But beyond the material possessions, here’s a few other things they hadn’t lost: their eyesight, their marriage, their ability to walk, their freedom to vote and express themselves, the power of their mind, their ability to set goals, their soul. To name just a few.
I realize “we lost everything” is not to be taken literally. It’s a metaphor. It relates primarily to possessions, jobs, and money. I get it.
Nevertheless, the message communicated by the minister was clear: we always did the right thing and God let us down. And that message has nothing to do with the truth. With all due respect, a minister ought to know better.
You see, most people are focused on the facts, and not the truth. There’s a difference. You’ll find lots of facts on the news: unemployment is now at 10.1%. The price of gas increased last month by twelve cents a gallon. The Dow Jones Industrial average was down 112 points on Friday. And so on.
What people fail to recognize is the facts always change. This current economic downturn was both predictable and necessary. The world is changing and so are the facts. But the truth never changes. And no matter what is going on in the outside world, no matter what your bank statement indicates, you have infinite potential. The potential doesn’t disappear when the money does. That’s the truth.
With his golden opportunity on Oprah, the minister chose to fully participate in the Pity Party. And he had lots of company. I don’t watch much television and I rarely watch Oprah, but I know she features empowering and positive topics as well. So let’s imagine for a minute that the minister’s testimony was entirely different on that episode. Here’s my idea for a revised script and a hypothetical interview:
Oprah- Next we’ll hear from a minister who’s been challenged by the economic downturn and has recently lost his job, was forced to file bankruptcy, and is about to have his mortgage foreclosed. My first question to you, why are still smiling?
Minister- Because I’m thrilled that my financial setbacks have turned out to be a blessing.
Oprah- How’s that?
Minister- Well, I’ve preached to a small congregation for twenty years and now because of my money situation I’m on Oprah with an opportunity to share something of great value to millions. It’s all a matter of perception.
Oprah- I see. So what message would you share with the millions of others who’ve lost employment or who are struggling financially despite always working hard, being faithful to God, and doing the right thing?
Minister- Well, first of all, struggle is a good thing. It strengthens us, it gives us an opportunity to grow and get to know ourselves better, and it provides all sorts of opportunities to serve one another. Secondly, we need to avoid the tendency to equate our richness with our current financial statements. You are rich right now and there are vast reservoirs of rich thoughts and possibilities in your magnificent imagination. And the third point is: we all need to get into harmony with the Law of Cause and Effect.
Oprah- What do you mean by that, get into harmony?
Minister- Well, the Law of Cause and Effect is one of the Spiritual Laws of the Universe. It’s been expressed many ways, such as “as ye sow, so shall ye reap,” and “ energy returns to its source of origination.” That’s a spiritual and a scientific way of viewing this law. And the mistake many people make is expecting an immediate reciprocation for their good deeds. But when it doesn’t happen that way, they become disillusioned; they wrongly conclude their good deed was for not. They always do the right thing, they pray, the serve their community, and then something bad happens to them and they get angry with God. They become resentful. They reason they didn’t deserve such a fate. That, in turn, causes disharmony with the Law.
Oprah- So how would you suggest a person gets into harmony with the Law of Cause and Effect?
Minister- The most critical part of the understanding of this law can be summed up in one sentence. There’s a season to sow and there’s a season to reap, and they don’t take place in the same season.
Oprah- Hmm. Interesting. So when is the season to sow?
Minister- That’s the biggest takeaway point of this whole thing. The season to sow never ends. No matter what's going on outside, no matter how the economy is performing, the sowing season goes on and on. The season to sow is every living, breathing moment you and I have an opportunity to extend a kindness, a smile, a service, a compliment, a portion of our excellence to another human being. And if you will endeavor to stay in harmony with this law, your harvest will be rich. The economy might be a challenge right now, but that will change. I can always get another job. I can always find another home. I can always build the bank account back up. But I won’t always have today. This is my only chance to make today count. What I'm doing right now on the Oprah Winfrey show is the only thing that matters, because NOW is the only time I have. I can't undo things from the past and I can't act in the future. If I’m spending today complaining about what I don’t have, I am not sowing good seeds. The most important thing I can do is sow some good seeds today. Take my focus off my temporary lack of money and give all my attention to my richness. Have gratitude for everything and be resentful of nothing. Someone else in my shoes might wrongly conclude: I’ve lost everything. The truth is: I have an endless number of things to be grateful for. Gratitude is the essence of what keeps me attached to my one source: God. And I’m not going to allow the facts to interfere with the truth. That’s being in harmony with the Law.
End of sermon. Fade to black.
Be sure to send Oprah my contact info.

Author's Bio: 

Fred Ford is an author and professional speaker, one of Bob Proctor's certified LifeSuccess consultants. Fred is the author of "Our Daily Fred" e-newsletter and two books. He is currently working on two other books, including his first novel and a collection of gratitude essays for which he is seeking essay contributors (submit an essay on his website www.telltheworldchangetheworld.com).