We are what we believe we are.” – C.S Lewis
William James was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century. He was an American philosopher, psychologist and trained physician.
Born in New York City on January 11, 1842, James was the oldest of five children. His father was a Swedenborg theologian and his brother, Henry James Jr., became a prominent fiction novelist.
A prolific author himself, William James gained widespread recognition for writing The Principles of Psychology (1890), a two volume work of over twelve hundred pages. It took more than 10 years to complete and it was considered a seminal work on the subject. He is often called the “Father of American psychology.”
James became more interested in philosophical issues as his life progressed. He seemed to fluctuate between a scientific approach to the study of faith and the belief that religious experience encompasses the supernatural domain, making it accessible to the individual human spirit but somehow inaccessible to science.
Honestly, I resonate with very little of his philosophical leanings. But I did make note of one particular William James quote, “The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
In other words, we are what we believe!
“The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing is what makes it happen.” – Frank Lloyd Wright
Some practitioners of modern Psychology are beginning to embrace the understanding that what we believe determines who we become. This construct is nothing new, of course. In fact, there is no such thing as “new” if you believe the words of the ancient book of Ecclesiastes which says,
9-11 History merely repeats itself. Nothing is truly new; it has all been done or said before. What can you point to that is new? How do you know it didn‘t exist long ages ago? We don‘t remember what happened in those former times, and in the future generations no one will remember what we have done back here. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11)
Since the book of Ecclesiastes is a part of Scripture, and I count myself among the multiplied millions who believe the Bible to contain the truth, I agree with what the writer said. History merely repeats itself.
Now to the point: prophets, priests and assorted writers of scripture have all pointed to this timeless truth – we are what we believe – long before it dawned on modern psychology that there just might be something to it. Consider this quote from the ancient biblical book of Proverbs:
“As a man thinks in his heart – so is he”. (Proverbs 23:7)
This providential truism was penned nearly 3 millennia ago. It affirms that our life is a manifestation of what we believe. (i.e. –REALLY believe – not random thoughts, fleeting emotional confusion or nightmares brought on by eating pepperoni and anchovy pizza before going to bed).
If this is true – we are what we believe – I am in effect everything that I have consistently believed that I am. But why?
Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right” – Henry Ford
The human spirit expresses itself through words. Whatever is inside of you – your core beliefs – will come out in the things you say. Our speech patterns reflect our belief patterns. In one of His great discourses, Jesus put it this way in the New Testament,
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:37).
Simply put, malevolent people speak malevolent words. Happy people speak happy words. Sad people speak sad words. Victorious people speak words of victory.
Now consider this, if you believe that you are a loser, your speech will reflect it. You will consistently reinforce through your words, I am a failure. And fail you will.
Some of you may be wondering, “are words really that important?” Yes, they are. Again, turning to the teaching of Jesus, listen carefully to what he said about inner belief and the power of your words:
“Have faith in God,” replied Jesus to them. “I tell you that if anyone should say to this hill, ‘Get up and throw yourself into the sea‘, and without any doubt in his heart believes that what he says will happen, then it will happen! That is why I tell you, whatever you pray about and ask for, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” Mark 11:22-25
Jesus begins by telling his followers to trust in God. He then delivers the crux of his illustrative teaching; when you speak what you believe in your heart with absolute doubtless conviction, those things that you SAY will happen. We are what we believe because we speak what we believe. Over time, what we say is what we get. Get it?
“Let your tongue speak what your heart thinks”. – Davy Crockett
Inner convictions (what we believe) train our lips. Trained lips shape our lives. Quoting from the Book of Proverbs once again,
“The heart of the wise teaches his mouth”. (Proverbs 16:23)
I am what I believe because I keep speaking what I believe over and over and over again. Eventually it manifests as my life. And, of course, I act accordingly.
When your heart is right with God and you fill your spirit with the truth, your spirit will teach your lips and your words will change your world.
Now some may misunderstand my purpose in this discourse. So let me be perfectly clear; you cannot go around speaking whatever your little heart desires and expect every selfish craving to materialize. God is not a genie or your personal leprechaun. I fully believe what the Psalmist wrote,
4”Be happy in the Lord. And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
But I also believe in the tempering Wisdom of Solomon,
3 Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed. (Proverbs 16:3 Amp)
When my thoughts are in agreement with God‘s will for my life, I will be filled with His truth and I will speak in line with His purpose. As a result, I expect my plans to succeed.
Guard Your Heart
Once we understand how important our spirit is to human development, we must learn to guard what we let into our heart. Turning one last time to the book of Proverbs, listen carefully to this admonition,
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Wow. Our spirit charts the course of life. Every word we speak with conviction – over time -molds and shapes our existence. FAITH is born in our spirit. FAITH (trust, reliance, conviction, assurance, confidence, belief), is released with every word that we speak. Faith filled words can move mountains. Not by magic. It‘s not wishful thinking. It‘s not a positive mental attitude. It’s THE SPIRIT OVER MATTER THRU WORDS. Or as Jesus explained it: Whosoever says… and does not doubt… but absolutely believes what he says… will have what he says.
We are what we believe we are… 14“May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing even to you, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656