Positivity, New-Age Ideologies, and Moral Obligations
It’s no secret that ideologies like The Secret discourage negativity of all kinds. It’s becoming more and more common to just “remove” the negativity from our lives by literally unfriending and unfollowing it on various social medias. Let me elaborate: It’s becoming more popular to simply delete, unfollow, unfriend, or block those in our social circles whom we disagree with.
We have all seen something similar to it on our timelines or social media news feeds before: people slowly removing other people from their lives because they dislike their negativity, dispositions, posts, opinions, etc.
It usually sounds similar to this: “I’m deleting people based on their attitudes about life.” “If you’re a negative person or complain about things outside of your control, I’m blocking you from my social media account.” “I can’t have your negativity in my life, so I’m removing you from it.” “I only want positive relationships with people, so if you post negative stuff, by Felicia.” “Consider yourself lucky if you’re reading this. I just deleted all of my friends who say negative things or who don’t support my behavior.”
If you’re not familiar with these ideologies, permit me to enlighten you. Essentially, it’s a weird mix of pseudo-“laws” that don’t make much sense, logically speaking. I wrote an overview of The Secret ideology on this blog, which is available to read here.
The “law” of attraction: Like things attract like things. If you’re a positive person and project positivity into the universe, then positive things will be attracted back to you. You attract what you are, supposedly. Any negative or bad things that happen to you are due to projecting negative, bad, or sub-par thoughts and wishes into the great abyss of the universe, which is all-knowing, allegedly. Another example: If you were to want an excess of money, hang pictures of money on a vision board, set your phone wallpaper to money, associate with those who have money, and behave as if you already have excess money. Then, the universe will somehow know this and will graciously send more money to you, because you’re “attracting” it to you.
The “law” of magnetism: This is basically the same thing as the “law” of attraction, listed above, just with a different name. Side thought: Pertaining to magnets, don’t opposites attract? So, magnetically speaking, if one were to send positivity into the universe, wouldn’t that attract negativity, since the positive magnetizes to the negative? But I digress.
The “law” of vibration: This is also about the same as the other two. In a nutshell, we all produce physical vibrations, since everything (molecules and atoms) are always in motion. If we can get our vibration speed and pattern to match up with the vibrations and patterns of what we want in life, then the universe will mysteriously give it to us. Example: A red Camaro has a certain vibration pattern and frequency, since it’s made of molecules and atoms that are always in motion. If we can match the vibration patterns of our thoughts with the vibration pattens of the Camaro, then the universe will somehow materialize one in our lives.
Sounds pretty great, right? However, there’s a caveat: We must remove everything from our lives that would contradict this ideology and mindset. So, those who disagree are often labeled as “too negative” or “haters” and are slowly shut out of the lives of those who agree with this ideology. Similar to how cults operate with isolationist behavior.
Firstly, I totally agree that we all have the right and responsibility to remove toxic and/or dangerous people from our lives when it is appropriate. I agree that it’s our right to unfriend, unfollow, and block other people on social media. I also agree that sometimes it is necessary to sever ties with people [see above statement about toxicity and danger].
Secondly, questioning another persons ideology, generally speaking, doesn’t qualify as being a dangerous or toxic behavior in of itself. It is the other behaviors and contexts surrounding it that are often problematic.
Thirdly, we need negativity in our lives sometimes. It’s important. Similar to how hate is important; knowing what someone hates reveals just as much, if not more, about them than knowing only what they love.
The Big Question
If followers of this Secret-like ideology believe that they really do have the secret to life, love, and happiness, then do they have a moral obligation to keep “negative” people in their lives?
Example: Christianity is a belief system that has this moral obligation. Christians believe that they do, in fact, have the secret to life (albeit, it isn’t much of a secret since it’s written all over the Bible and they they talk about it all the time), and they believe that they have an obligation to associate with and be around those who don’t yet believe in the Christian worldview.
Jesus hung out with the tax collectors and prostitutes and other miscellaneous sinners; the social outcasts; those who didn’t comply with the Christian behavioral standards or even necessarily believe in the Way of Jesus. Yet, Jesus and other Christians back then still associated with them and even helped them.
Even though their behavior usually wasn’t good, even though they didn’t agree with the ideology, even though, even though, even though…
Christians believe they have the figurative high ground, a leg up on life compared to those who don’t follow the tenants of the Christian faith. And because of that, they have a moral obligation to tell others about the love of Jesus and to show it to them by their actions, which happens to require them to associate with those others.
It’s like they have found a never ending fountain of happiness and fulfillment and purpose and want to share it with everyone. And it’s encouraged, especially since there is more than enough of it to go around because it’s never ending.
If those who follow this new-age philosophy of “positive thinking” being the secret to love, life, and happiness, then do they not have a moral obligation to share it with those who don’t yet buy into it?
Is it not concerning that the first reaction of this ideology is to push those who question, have reservations, or disagree with it out of their lives?
Are the powers of positivity, magnetism, thoughts, or vibrations not powerful enough to overcome the mere negativity, skepticism, or questioning mindset of those who don’t buy into it wholesale?
If the power of one’s thinking isn’t strong enough to overcome the (perceived) negative attitude of another’s thinking, then it makes sense to push those who disagree away. After all, that would make the alleged power of positive thoughts fraudulent and it would just be another hollow ideology.
One of the unique things about Christianity is that it repeatedly challenges people to question its authenticity and validity. Skepticism is welcomed, even encouraged.
If the Secret and other associated ideologies are as legitimate and as “powerful” as their followers report them to be, then why is the testing and questioning of them discouraged? Why is the knee-jerk reaction to label the skeptics as “haters” and to essentially blackball them from the follower’s lives? If it really is a legitimate ideology, then questioning should be smiled upon, if not at least begrudgingly permitted at minimum.
We don’t purchase cars, houses, boats, animals, or computers without first asking questions and getting information about it. This is called “due diligence.” Dr. Henry Cloud has a book dedicated to this entire subject titled, Integrity.
This reminds me of a story about a rancher named Duke:
Duke was a rancher in the market to buy a thoroughbred Clydesdale. After searching for days, he found a horse salesman, set up an appointment, and went to look at the salesman’s Clydesdale selection. Duke arrived at the salesman’s ranch and, after some looking around, he found a good looking Clydesdale. Naturally, Duke asked the salesman questions about this horse and asks to see the horse’s paper trail, because legitimate thoroughbred horses come with official paperwork documenting family lineage and that they are, in fact, thoroughbred and not half donkey.
When the salesman was asked these questions and was requested to show paperwork, he become irate. “How dare you question the authenticity of this beautiful stallion?” He said angrily.
Caught off guard by this outburst, Duke said, “I’m just doing my due diligence, making sure this is a legitimate sale and that all of the i’s and t’s are dotted and crossed.”
“No! I’m not going to show you papers or tell you more information about this wonderful horse. I can’t believe you would even think to ask such questions,” the salesman spat out. Still appalled, he continued, “This is a thoroughbred Clydesdale, I say he is, and you’ll just have to accept it without question. Otherwise, the deal is off and you’re banned from my ranch.”
“So,” Duke began, uncertain of what he just heard, “I just have to take your word at face value here? Without seeing any official paperwork or being told anything else about this horse other than that you say he’s a thoroughbred Clydesdale? You can’t tell me anything about his temperament, how he socializes with other horses, if he has been broken in yet, had vaccinations, dietary issues, where the parents came from…You can’t tell me anything?”
The salesman became red in the face and yelled, “That’s it! Get out! Get out! Get out! You’ve asked too many questions. Leave my property now and never come back!”
Duke calmly left the store. Weeks later, he found out that one of his rancher acquaintances bought a Clydesdale off of the same salesman without seeing paperwork or asking questions, just bought it at face value of what the salesman said.
The acquaintance took the horse elsewhere to find out if it was indeed a thoroughbred Clydesdale or not. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The “thoroughbred Clydesdale” ended up being 1/4 donkey and the man essentially threw away thousands of dollars on a $150 horse.
Yes, that’s an entirely fictional story. But the moral of it is nonfiction: Due diligence is important. If the other party involved is strongly against us doing our due diligence, then that should send up several red flags.
To sum it up in seventy words or less: Yes, the followers of these ideologies should have a moral obligation to associate with those who don’t buy into them. That being said, these ideologies are inherently selfish, incredibly insidious, and pervasively void of any legitimately fulfilling meaning or higher purpose. The followers of these belief systems generally don’t feel any such moral obligation either, which, ironically, provides further evidence as to just how inherently selfish these ideologies really are.