Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
I didn’t know it at the time. But as I was growing up, my father was teaching me the “art” of Reframing. I’m not talking about reframing family photos or fancy artwork here. I’m talking about reframing the situations of our lives by changing the way we look at them.
Just as different frames can draw out different aspects of a picture, even as the picture remains the same, my father could look at any situation and find something good in it. I remember my first car which I “inherited” from my family because no one else wanted it! It was a 1974 Buick LeSabre that once upon a time had a vinyl roof. By the time I got the keys, most of the vinyl was gone, exposing a rusted car roof caused by the salt air of the Caribbean, where we had lived years before. When I complained about the clunker, my father explained that driving this car would build my character. Something, according to him, that was priceless. It was definitely a way of looking at things that was different from my perspective! I’ll tell you one thing, that car made me FULLY appreciate every car I’ve owned since!
I learned to fine tune what my father taught me as I studied Psychology in college. Learning about cognitive therapy and its major players, Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis, helped to shed more light on the hows and whys of reframing. Albert Ellis developed what was called Rational Emotive Therapy now known as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Simply put, he proposed that our rationale(thinking) affected our emotions which in turn affected our behavior. If we can change the way we think, we can change the way we act. For example you can reframe:
- A problem as an opportunity
- A weakness as a strength
- Someone’s unkindness as a lack of understanding
Roger Ellerton, in an article on Reframing, tells of two very notable examples. One occurred in the 1984 presidential campaign. There was considerable concern about Ronald Reagan’s age. Speaking during the presidential debate with Walter Mondale, Reagan said “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Reagan’s age was not an issue for the remainder of the campaign! Another is a story about Thomas Watson Sr., the first President of IBM. A young worker had made a mistake that lost IBM $1 M in business. She was called in to the President’s office and as she walked in said, “Well, I guess you have called me here to fire me.” “Fire you?” Mr. Watson replied, “I just spent $1 M on your education!”
The funny thing is, long before Ellis “developed” reframing as a cognitive restructuring technique, God, through scripture had been encouraging his children to practice this very same behavior for centuries! We are exhorted in Philippians 4:8, to “Think on what is good, Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” and 2 Corinthians 10:5 ” take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Each of these examples “coincidently” are from the Epistles of Paul. What a guy! In 2 Corinthians 11:21-28, we get a glimpse of the many hardships he encountered. He had been in prison, severely flogged, and exposed to death again and again. He describes it this way, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” I can’t help but believe that disciplining his thoughts and reframing his circumstances helped him through these many trials. “When I am weak, I am strong.” “We rejoice in our sufferings”, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
If we believe like Paul, that God is working something out in our lives and He has the power to keep His promises, then we can’t help but look at our circumstances differently. I love to be around people who reframe with humor. I came upon the following cartoons years ago and they inspire me to look at my circumstances differently.
Many of you know that my son is severely disabled. Because of this, when it came time to have his wisdom teeth taken out, the oral surgeon decided to do the surgery at the hospital with an anesthesiologist and the full shebang! The anesthesiologist came in the prep room and gave Judah “the equivalent of a few beers” (his words not mine) before he gave him the big stuff. It got me thinking. Rather than throw myself a pity party because my son is not like other teenagers who just go into the Doctor’s office, have their wisdom teeth removed and walk out, I reframed the situation by being grateful that this is the only time I will ever have to worry about my son being “high” in his life!
Another way you can reframe is by asking yourself questions. When something happens that makes me upset, I ask myself, “Is this going to matter in a thousand years?” Invariably the answer is no! Another question that helps me not get carried away is, “Do I have all the facts?”
This isn’t just an assignment in positive thinking. We need to look at things from an eternal point of view, from the perspective that there is a Heavenly Father who loves us and has our lives in His hands. He has the big picture in mind. Almost everything we experience in this world is just temporary and we have God’s promise “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) and that He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Let us reclaim the abundant life that Christ came to give us and quit letting the enemy rob us of our peace! Reclaim! Reframe! LH
“JUST SAY KNOW” Bible Study
Click on the link below for this week’s Bible Study on the “Reframers” of the Bible!