The Power Of Belief

The Power Of Belief

The truth is, when you believe in something, when you believe unapologetically that you can do something, you will constantly make decisions and pursue means that fulfill those beliefs.

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I have written extensively about two parables in Odyssey articles so far: the Parable of the Lost Son and the Parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee. I think about these parables all the time in terms of how I should regard, treat, and live among others. But another parable I like, that isn't quite in the Bible (and functions more as a simple story) is the Parable of the Alcoholic Father.

My perception of the parable goes like this: a violently abusive alcoholic has twin sons. One of the sons turns into a violently abusive alcoholic, just like his father. The other son turns into an abstinent, supportive father and parent, and when both sons were asked how they turned out to be who they were, they answered: "Given who my father was, how could I not?"


What's the lesson we gain from the Parable of the Alcoholic Father? It might be something as simple as the fact that we have a choice, but what is it's not like we decide overnight that we decide whether we want to be like our fathers or not. It is a lifelong choice, a gradual battle where we succeed sometimes and fail other times, and everything we do contributes to what we become. What even is a choice, and do we have them? Even though determinists in psychology often say that we don't, I've written before about how a choice, in HBO's Westworld, is how we deal with our defining life moments. A choice is how we deal with trauma, and how we deal with the things in our lives that are "too precious to lose."

But overwhelmingly, the language of the two brothers indicates that they don't, in fact, have a choice. Their destinies, as either the model of their father or the exact opposite of him, is predetermined. Both brothers share the powerful mantra of "how could I not?" However, they see the world from very different perspectives. One views his life through a lens of powerlessness, and the other views his through a similar lens of powerlessness on a different path. They both believe that they have a destiny, and that's what makes the paradox of the parable so fascinating to me.

Does having a choice mean believing you don't have a choice? Perhaps. Instead, the parable is special because it helps to illustrate a concept, and a powerful one at that: perspective is often the most powerful thing in determining who we are. The self-fulfilling prophecy, in psychology, is defined as a "prediction that causes itself, directly or indirectly, to be true." The parable shows the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy, and above all the power of belief. The most common

For the alcoholic twin, believing that he was going to be just like his alcoholic father was half battle in becoming his just like his father. For the abstinent brother, believing that he was going to be the opposite of his alcoholic father was also half the battle.

My initial impressions of the parable have changed drastically from what I think of it now - what the parable of the alcoholic father shows is the power of believing in yourself. It's quite obvious how much more difficult and challenging it is to do something when you don't believe, and I know some people who think it hubris or sheer arrogance to believe that you can do anything. But many of those same people would, instead, would buy into the words that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phillipians 4:13)

The truth is, when you believe in something, when you believe unapologetically that you can do something, you will constantly make decisions and pursue means that fulfill those beliefs. It's no secret that believing in an unconditionally loving God will make you spend more time going to church and reading scripture, nor is it a secret that believing you're a hard and tenacious worker will make you do more at work. It's no secret that believing you're a good student will make you spend more time doing homework or studying, nor is it a secret that believing you're a good person will make you more likely to treat people more kindly.

And back to the Parable of the Alcoholic Father: maybe the lesson here isn't as simple as the fact that we have a choice, but believing we have a choice, and that we are capable of executing it. And there's an added layer to the power of the parable - when you have a goal you're aiming for, ask yourself, in terms altered to your own personalized circumstances, "given everything that's happened, how could I not?"

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To High School Seniors In Their Last Semester

Senior year moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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Dammit, you made it. The final semester of your senior year. You’re at the top of the food chain of high school, and it feels so good. You’re probably praying this last semester flies by, that you get out of town as soon as possible.

At this point, you’re calling teachers by their first names, the entire staff knows you by name, and you’re walking around school standing tall, owning those hallways. You’re convinced you’re ready to leave and move on to the next chapter in your life.

You’ve already experienced your last football game, standing in the cold in the front row of the student section all season long, decked out in your school colors and cheering loud and proud. That is, until they lost, and you realized you will never have that experience again. Never again.

SEE ALSO: What I Wish I Knew As A Second-Semester High School Senior

You already had your last winter break. Preparing and celebrating the holidays with your family, ice skating and sledding with your best friends. Those quiet nights alone in your room watching Netflix, taking for granted your loved ones just a few rooms away. Never again.

If you’re an athlete, you may have already played in your last game or ran your last race. The crowd cheering, proudly wearing your school’s name across your chest, giving it your all. For some, it may be the end of your athletic career. Before you knew it, you were standing in an empty gym, staring up at the banners and thinking about the mark you left on your school, wondering where on earth the time went. Never again.

I’m telling you right now, you’re going to miss it all. Everything you’ve ever known. Those early mornings when you debate going to first hour because you really need those McDonald’s hash browns. The late nights driving home from practice, stopping for ice cream of course, ready for a late night of homework. Getting food on a whim with your friends. Endless fights with your siblings. Your favorite chips in the pantry. A fridge full of food. Coming home to and getting tackled by your dog. Driving around your hometown, passing the same sights you’ve seen every day for as long as you can remember. Hugs from your mom after a long day. Laughs with your dad. And that best friend of yours? You’re going to miss them more than anything. I’m telling you right now, nothing will ever be the same. Never again.

SEE ALSO: I'm The Girl That Enjoyed High School

Before you start packing your bags, slow down, take a deep breath, and look around. You’ve got it pretty good here. The end of your senior year can be the time of your life; it’s truly amazing. So go to the winter dance, go to Prom, spend Senior Skip Day with your classmates, go to every sporting event you can, while you still can. College is pretty great, but it’s the little things you’re gonna miss the most. Don’t take it for granted because soon, you’ll be standing in a packed gym in your cap and gown, wondering where the heck the time went. You’ve got a long, beautiful life ahead of you, full of joy but also full of challenges. You’re going to meet so many wonderful people, people who will treat you right and people who won’t.


So, take it all in. Be excited for the future and look forward to it, but be mindful of the present. You’ve got this.
Cover Image Credit: Hartford Courant

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Those Old Photographs Show A Girl I Don't Recognize Anymore

Reflection on what once was, and what now is.

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Sometimes, I look through old pictures.

Whether it be scrolling through my camera roll on my iPhone, my various social media accounts or even the pictures people have tagged me in over the years. What I see, however, disturbs me. I look into the eyes of the girl who covers every inch of my accounts, the girl in almost every other picture on my camera roll.

I don't see me.

What I do see: a stranger. Happy, pure, stress-free. A girl whose smile stretches from ear to ear, whose eyes shine bright like little shooting stars. Nonchalant dimples. Slightly messy hair, a dirtier blonde. She's usually placed with friends who turned out to not actually be friends or the occasional guy that she thought was going to be the one. So optimistic.

Who is she, and where did she go?

Over time, she starts to look a little more stressed. Her eyes start to dull, and the smile lessens until it's barely there in photographs. Her hair does lighten over time, but soon she will realize that it will never be light enough for her liking. A secret perfectionist.

The stranger starts to look more and more like the girl I see in the mirror every morning, and this is when I finally have to come to terms with the fact that I once was that girl.

Was.

I'm not saying I'm not happy. I still smile, I still laugh. It's just that there are only so many events a person can go through before they really start to change. So here, at this point in time, is when I really have to sit down and think. Think about what lessened that smile. Think about what turned the sparkle in those eyes into tears. Think about everything that made me feel anything less than content.

It's not just things. It's people. Human beings. Terrible, horrible, human beings. They come into your life, and you want to believe that people are good and that they are just as caring as you are.

Wrong.

They will break you. Whether it be soft and slow, or quick like a knife finding it's home in the center of your heart. You will meet good people, yes, but you will also meet those with the cruelest of intentions. You'll never see it at first. Ever. You'll let them snake their way into your heart and mind, you will offer to give them the world and more. That's just who you are, or maybe, who you were.

So this is where I must ask this, and truly reflect on the events of my life: Who was the first and last person to add to the deterioration of the girl in the old photos? What was the first and last event to do so? Is there some chronological timeline somewhere that I'm missing out on, or is it really just one big blur of catastrophes?

It's hard to answer such questions. I can remember brief moments from my childhood that may have contributed. Small encounters with immature tween boys who were the first to make me feel anything less than beautiful. My fellow middle school peers who harassed me for being the quiet girl who liked to wear quirky outfits. The other girls in my class who didn't want to be around me, simply because I didn't grow up in the same area as them. Like I could help that. I had several things in common with them, but they will never know. Or maybe it was the high school administrators who laughed in my face at my goals and ambitions. Administrators.

I could go on and on about the people, places and things that have tried to knock me down a few pegs. The stepping stones who brought the smiling, happy figure to the reserved, hesitant girl and merged them. I must remember one thing: I am not the person who let that random boy call me a name. I am not the girl who let her "friend" violently yell at her and break her down in public. I am not the girl who let her "friend" make her feel bad for being there for her and expecting her to do the same. I am not the girl who let the wrong person in way more than once.

I am much stronger now. That's when I realized what actually happened. It wasn't a deterioration, it was a metamorphosis that occurred.

Yes, these events may have a negative connotation to them, but in all honesty, I don't regret a thing. Yes, the perfect stranger in the old photos may look like the more ideal option at times, but she isn't ready for the real world, at least she wasn't. She wasn't confident or mature, she was exactly what she looks like: a child. My experiences have shaped me and turned me into someone who is ready. Ready to take on whatever comes this way. Ready for reality.

I miss the girl that's further down my feed often. Sometimes, I daydream of the simpler times. Times where I could create beautiful life plans, times where I dreamt of this extravagant fantasy life, with some crazy-cool job and a husband I never fight with and a large home on a waterfront somewhere. This isn't true reality. Reality is a good friend of mine now. That's OK. We're starting to get along, finally. I understand it a lot better now.

Sometimes, I look through old pictures.

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