We live in a culture where positive thinking can do everything. It can lead us to riches. It can fix our problems. It can mend our broken relationships. This is all a great approach to make the most of ourselves, but what people don’t often see is the limits of positive thinking and abundance.
It’s worth digging deeper.
Abundance and Resource Hoarding
A lot of positive thinking revolves around abundance. It revolves around the idea that there is more than enough to go around. It rejects the scarcity myth that there is only so much and replaces it with the concept that we have all we need.
This is definitely true in theory. For instance, there are more than enough apples to create more apple trees. Everyone has the potential to take their seeds and create a tree. Apples are abundant and easy to come by. This is the concept of abundance.
The problem is you need resources to grow trees. You need land. You need the proper climate. You need pest control. You may have the seeds of abundance, but you don’t have everything you need to be abundant.
What’s more, there are greedy people. They either fear scarcity or crave power. Instead of making sure that everyone has seeds and land, they will try to hoard the seeds and the land. They will charge for the land or lobby government for taxes on the land or restrictions on others growing trees.
There will always be abundance, but greedy people will take, sometimes unwittingly to make abundance scarce. Even with the limits of positive thinking and abundance we can make our world better, but first we have to understand how it’s unequal.
For instance, do you think that people that have grown up rich in a good home have the same potential with the same effort as someone who has grown up poor in an abusive home? Do you think that someone who has grown up free has the same potential as someone who has grown up as a captive? Do you think that someone who has grown up in a location where anything they needed was available has the same potential as someone who has grown up in a location where there isn’t even proper sanitation?
The fact is that positive thinking and abundance are tools that help those with privilege. They are great tools with all kinds of potential to help not only those with privilege, but those without. At the same time they require those with privilege to help those without instead of just telling them to think positively and believe.
Even in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness the man who was homeless and became successful still relied on those with privilege. Martin Luther King Jr said, “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”
These are the limits of positive thinking and abundance, but there are still ways to make the world better if you know your privilege.
Know Your Privilege
In some way you have privilege, even if you are struggling. If you have food you have privilege over those who don’t. If you have clean drinking water you have privilege over those who have none. If you have a job you have privilege over those who are unemployed.
But most of us have more privilege than we realize. Often the people who don’t see the limits of positive thinking and abundance are the ones most likely to take advantage of others.
For instance, look at Amazon. Jeff Bezos became the richest man in the world while his workers struggled. At one point in Ohio ten percent of Amazon’s workforce was on food stamps. Now you can talk about positive thinking all you want, but how many ways are there really for all the workers at Amazon to enjoy a better life?
Privilege ignores the limits of positive thinking and abundance. It doesn’t understand the role privilege plays and therefore doesn’t fight for equality. It doesn’t realize the duty we all have to change the world for the better.
For those of us with privilege (which is really all of us), it’s our duty to help those without. When we have abundance in an area, we need to share that with others. When we have been blessed with something others don’t have, we need to make sure and bless others.
In the same way we don’t need to horde money, time, and resources. We don’t need to horde positive thinking and abundance. We don’t need to believe the best for us while ignoring the dreams of others.
In the example of the apple trees, we not only need to avoid making undo restrictions and hoarding land and resources, we also need to help others find and secure land and resources and help them start their own orchards. Privilege has a duty to help others.
Sure everyone should work to believe the best and see the abundance all around us, but it requires those of us with privilege in one area to help those who don’t have it. Those are the limits of positive thinking and abundance, and if we work together, we can limit those limits and make abundance abound.