May 16, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

Can You Have Godliness without God?

Secular scientists attempt to promote righteousness through human effort. But is it authentic?

Mindfulness can make you selfish: study (Medical Xpress). Mindfulness is one of the darling techniques of secular psychology. It helps relieve stress and cure depression, advocates say. It also can make you selfish, warn psychologists from the University of Buffalo.

Mindfulness is big business. Downloads of mindfulness apps generate billions of dollars annually in the U.S., and their popularity continues to rise. In addition to what individual practitioners might have on their phones, schools and prisons along with 1 in 5 employers currently offer some form of mindfulness training.

Mindfulness and meditation are associated with reducing stress and anxiety, while increasing emotional well-being. Plenty of scholarship supports these benefits. But how does mindfulness affect the range of human behaviors—so-called prosocial behaviors—that can potentially help or benefit other people? What happens when the research looks outwardly at social effects of mindfulness rather than inwardly at its personal effects?

Mindfulness involves thinking intentionally about your body. “I am breathing. I am feeling my toes.” Before getting buffaloed by the cost of mindfulness training, consider what one of the UB psychologists warns:

“Mindfulness can make you selfish,” says Michael Poulin, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and the paper’s lead author. “It’s a qualified fact, but it’s also accurate. Mindfulness increased prosocial actions for people who tend to view themselves as more interdependent. However, for people who tend to view themselves as more independent, mindfulness actually decreased prosocial behavior.”

The righteousness advocated by the Bible is very unselfish. In the first place, Jesus offered his disciples peace: a peace that the world cannot understand. Those who follow Jesus lose their love of self and have JOY: “Jesus first, others next, yourself last.” In response to peace and forgiveness Christ offers, his followers cannot help but respond unselfishly in gratitude.

Count Your Blessings: Short Gratitude Intervention Can Increase Academic Motivation (Ritsumeikan University, Japan). Few would discount the value of gratitude. Anyone who has tried it has felt the warmth and release of stress it brings. In a colorful graphic, the Japanese psychologists indicated several positive benefits of taking a gratitude break. For instance, “Gratitude can be a powerful force toward motivation and well being.” Experiments with students showed that “Keeping a daily gratitude journal for as little as two weeks can help keep students motivated for months.”

Once again, though, this is a selfish appeal. Are the students who took part in the experiment authentically grateful, if the reward offered is to do better in their school work? More importantly, who are they grateful to? Merely choosing to “count blessings” in order to “feel” grateful is not gratitude; it’s self-interest. Christians are grateful to God and to those worthy of thanks because they really deserve it. Gratitude is a moral duty, expressed to worthy persons, especially to the Creator who is the source of all blessings. If good feelings and motivation flow from gratitude, that’s frosting on top of the cake of responsibility.

Nature draws out a happy place for children (Anglia Ruskin University, UK). Psychologists at ARU asked children from deprived areas to draw pictures of happy places.

More than half of the children created drawings that included aspects of nature and outdoor spaces, such as trees, grass, parks, gardens, lakes, rivers, outdoor playgrounds, rainbows or sunlight. Trees, in particular, were drawn by a third of the children.

However, the study found the elements of nature mainly existed in the background of the drawings. Other aspects of wellbeing, such as a sense of safety, positive relationships with family and friends, and the need for love and happiness, were more explicit in the pictures.

The psychologists insinuate that poor children need more wealth and access to safe spaces in nature. The Bible teaches, by contrast, that joy is internal; it does not come from “happy places” as much as an authentic relationship with God through Christ. Even persecuted prisoners can experience that joy despite the worst of circumstances. Happiness is not a function of wealth. Deprived children who grow up in families devoted to the Lord’s righteousness will find every place a safe space, a happy place, and a secure space with loving relationships.

Instead of trusting secular psychologists as experts, read your Bible. There, you will learn that:

1/ Meditating on God, and setting your mind on things above, is the authentic path to peace.

2/ Expressing authentic gratitude to God for his great gift of salvation through Jesus is a responsibility; joy almost inevitably follows.

3/ Every place is a happy place if God is there. And experiencing nature as God’s marvelous creation makes every outdoor scene look better – an authentic occasion for worship, awe and wisdom.

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