It started innocently enough. I ate one Dove chocolate candy heart. It was wonderful.
Then I looked at the wrapper. (For those who don’t know, Dove candies have little sayings inside like, “Chocolate therapy is ‘Oh, so good.'”)
My candy wrapper said, “Do something spontaneous.”
So I grabbed another candy!
And inside that second wrapper? “Linger over chocolate longer.”
So I did!
I lingered and lavished creamy chocolate on my eager tongue. I spent the next 15 minutes unwrapping and savoring those little chocolate hearts—feeding my chocolate addiction!
And ingesting a total of 330 calories, 21 grams of fat and 29 grams of sugar (9 Dove hearts)! I calculated the devastation later, long after I mindlessly inhaled all that yummy chocolate.
Obviously, the power of suggestion in those little candy wrappers overcame me. They did not do me any good (other than the momentary, delicious taste!)
The power of suggestions is that words can motivate us to make choices—good and bad—and our choices shape our reality.
Think about it.
- If a nurse tells you a shot is going to hurt, wouldn’t you tense up? But if the nurse tells you it won’t be too bad, you’d probably relax (a bit).
- If a teacher tells you a course is going to be difficult, it might cause you to buckle down and study harder. Would you study as much if your teacher said, “This course is a breeze”?
- If all you hear is “broccoli tastes terrible,” would you be motivated to try it?
Research says a “deliberate suggestion” can influence how we behave, because we have “response expectancies”—we anticipate our response in certain circumstances. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. What are we saying to ourselves? What is our self-talk?
When it comes to “suggestions,” who are we listening to, what are we viewing, what are our influences?
Negative suggestions (like the lies we hear from our enemy, Satan) can sabotage our lives and work. Conversely, words we find in the Bible contribute to our spiritual success, when we act on them.
[Note: I want to make this clear. God’s commands are not suggestions! He tells us what to do because He is God and He knows what is best for us. But there are many other scriptures that, while they are not strictly commands, we would be wise to heed. Why?
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV).]
With this in mind, how can you use “the power of suggestion” for good?
1. Be aware of what messages you’re receiving.
Ask the Lord to help you spot defeating thoughts and pay closer attention to those messages that encourage your spiritual growth.
“The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. … Keep them within your heart” (Proverbs 4:19-21).
“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord” (Proverbs 16:20 NIV).
Obviously, being attentive and taking heed to positive input would include reading the Word of God and reading and hearing the teaching of godly people. But we also need basic, everyday interactions that challenge us so we can bring more glory to God; so …
2. Identify people who focus on and practice scriptural wisdom and rub shoulders with them more often, because it’s likely their “suggestions” will be positive and life-building.
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise….” (Proverbs 13:20a).
Never discount building a network of people to surround you who are biblically wise and concerned about your spiritual welfare. We all need accountability. We all need encouragement.
Be sure your own “suggestions” are positive too! Are you building people up or tearing them down? Do you inspire or destroy others with your words, attitudes and behavior?
3. Be a lifelong learner when it comes to improvement.
Make sure you have a teachable spirit. Are you willing to listen to influencers’ suggestions, and take their challenging words before the Lord in prayer to see if they apply to your life?
“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning” (Proverbs 9:9 ESV).
“…whoever heeds reproof is honored” (Proverbs 13:18 ESV).
You can counsel your own heart according to the Word of God by using powerful written “suggestions” you’ll see every day: notes at your computer, plaques on the wall, message pillows, etc.
4. Realize that you are always choosing how you will respond to the power of suggestion.
Words can create expectations and motivate change. Every day, you will make choices based on the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs you hold most dear. In other words …
What you entertain in your thoughts can shape the person you become.
Examine your thoughts. How is the power of suggestion working in your life? What are you expecting to happen?
For example, maybe you’ve heard a wrong suggestion about your worth. What do you believe about yourself?
- If you believe you are nothing but a disgusting worm, your aspirations won’t rise to great heights.
- But if you believe you are a redeemed sinner, a child of the Father in heaven—loved by Him and being changed into the image of His Son, Jesus—you will likely aspire to make choices to please and honor Him.
Whatever you sow into your mind will reap a harvest (Galatians 6:7)—pray for discernment! You can choose whether to walk in the counsel of the wicked or according to the wisdom of God (Psalm 1:1-2; James 1:5).
Your mind was designed by God to respond and choose according to the input you receive, and you can use the power of suggestion as a tool to help you grow in the Lord.
What “suggestions” are you receiving today? Are they helpful or harmful?