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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Living with the Joel Osteen effect

Who is Joel Osteen and what is the Joel Osteen effect?

First things First.

Who is Joel Osteen?

Joel Scott Osteen (born March 5, 1963)[2] is an American preacher, televangelist, author, and the Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest Protestant church in the United States, in Houston, Texas. His televised sermons are seen by over 7 million viewers weekly and over 20 million monthly in over 100 countries.[3][4] Osteen has written five New York Times Bestselling books. He has been widely nicknamed "The Smiling Preacher".[5]

Second things Second.

What is the Joel Osteen effect?

This will take a little more explanation than a couple of website links so let's get started.

My mother raised me as a devout Christian in the Seventh Day Adventist faith and in the southern tradition of the Bible Belt Culture.

In my adolescence and young adulthood, I would turn on the TV and watch people like Charles Stanley, Joel Osteen's father, John Osteen and other tele-evangelists.

John Osteen founded Lakewood Church and was obviously grooming Joel to take over but John died of a heart attack in 1999 and Joel immediately took over.

I remember watching Joel Osteen in his first few telecasts and I wasn't quite sure what to think.

First off, the guy was always smiling while he was preaching and I have 2 observations on that:
  1. It's hard to smile while you're talking.  You ever tried it?  It's not natural and it makes your face kinda look funny.  It's like you should either be doing one of the two things - Smiling or Talking - but not both at the same time.
  2. I've never trusted people who smile while they talk because of #1.  It's not natural.  It's a learned technique which means it's kind of manipulative in a way.  Or at least that's what I thought at the time.
And before you devout Christian readers (hang on.... I don't think I have any devout Christian readers) get mad and stop reading, just bear with me.... this little tale has a happy (positive) ending.

Which segues perfectly into what I'm about to say.

Second thing you can't help but notice about Joel Osteen's sermons is that the content, theme or some part of the sermon almost always deals with.....

Positivity.... Being Positive.... or Creating Positivity in your life.

Now let me tell you, and anybody that has known me or knows me, knows that Positivity is not my best suit.

In fact, in my younger years, when I was occasionally watching Joel Osteen on TV, I finally just quit watching him because I didn't agree with, didn't respect and just basically didn't want to hear his message of Positivity.

Let me explain.

In general and in the past, my philosophy, perspective and experience led me to conclude that the "Pollyannas" of the world - my description for the cheerleading, always happy, positive message mongers of the world......

Simply didn't have a freaking clue!

Or worse.... their only function in life was to always paint the best picture of what was usually a total FUBAR (look it up - this is a religion based post and I don't want to piss off the Bible Bangers) situation and just be the person who cheerleaded the group of people who actually had to do the work, deal with the dirty details and solve the problem.

Yeah - I saw it dozens of times in my career.  You had a person who was a member of  a work group who was always happy, always projecting and professing the best case scenario, who didn't do a flipping thing, but usually got credit for all the work that people like me did.  Yeah - People like Me who brought up the negative issues, what could go wrong and plotted a course of action and painstakingly produced a result and deliverable that addressed the original problem.  I got a check and they got promoted.

So, in conclusion, Pollyannas were usually on my shit list.

But a strange thing happened slowly over a number of years.... and I mean it took a long time.... like 15 - 20 years.

As I worked and lived through my life and saw those "positive" people progress and move on and I saw my own struggles and the way the world related to me, I started to think....

Hmmmm...... Maybe the Joel Osteens of the world have something.

So.... back to good ole Joel and his theme.

One of the things that I got out of Joel's sermons was not only the Positivity theme but also the concept and approach of distancing and separating yourself from those things and situations in your Life that were Negative.

This was another Life Concept I had a problem with because I placed a huge amount of value in respecting the Negative viewpoints of Life and all that it brought to the table:
  1. Considering the Negative in anything forces you to prepare and plan for what might happen if things don't go the way you want them to.  
  2. This seemed to happen to me a lot so embracing and dealing with the Negative had become a way of life to me.
  3. I always considered the "Negative" viewpoint the more sane and realistic, dare I say pragmatic, perspective of the World because it just seemed that things worked out that way more than not.
  4. Because of that, I viewed the Positive-mongers as being people who just didn't get it - who were setting themselves up for disappointment and demise when their Lack of Planning and Contingencies were met by the Realities of a World that deferred to Murphy's Law.
  5. Finally, because I skewed to the Negative, I had to embrace the Negative Bent in Life because if I didn't, it was a form of Self-Denial.  It would mean I was WRONG..... and you just can't go through life doubting yourself - RIGHT?
So what happened?

Well - after 2 failed marriages and a career in corporate America that didn't turn out the way I wanted to, I started to consider the World's unanimous perspective that  I was a Negative person.

The catchy thought provoking question.....

"How's that working for ya?" comes to mind.

Not too well.... thanks very much.

I started looking at and analyzing myself and asking the question - 

Why am I so negative?

And in the final analysis, and in most cases, the answer is usually something like....

Because I don't like myself and I'm not happy.  (Some people spends thousands of dollars at a shrink to figure that out.)

Hmmm... that's interesting.

Well - why don't you like yourself and why are you not happy?

I don't know.... make a list:
  • I'm fat.
  • I'm ugly.
  • I'm stupid.
  • I don't play well with others.
  • I hurt all the time.
  • I work too much.
  • I don't sleep enough.
  • I'm mean to people.
  • People don't like me.
  • .......
And then I started working on some of these things and began to realize that part of developing a more positive outlook on life had to do with.....

Working on Yourself.

Making yourself Better makes you more Positive.

And then People like you more.

Which makes you more positive.

I started noting how people responded to me differently when I was being positive vs negative.

And when I started becoming more positive, I realized real quickly that I didn't appreciate Negative People as much as I used to!  Now isn't that interesting?

So where am I now?

Well - I am no Pollyanna - that's  for sure.

But I am a lot more positive than I used to be.

And I'm a better person for it.

It's still hard for me to smile while I'm talking but I do try to smile a lot more....

And strangely and unexpectedly, I get a lot of smiles back.

And I guess there's nothing wrong with that.

So... Thanks Joel.

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