Thomas A’Kempis on the Trinity

A challenging book in the tradition of Christian devotional manuals is The Imitation of the Christ by Thomas A’Kempis. While some of the advice he gives is geared especially or even exclusively toward monks, a great deal of what is said is quite useful advice for appropriating a godly mindset. Here is an excerpt from the first chapter:

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 1–2.

Mindset, Compliments, and Success

Thing to remember for this read: Mindset is the collection of attitudes and processes one uses to evaluate oneself or the circumstances of life.

You probably enjoy a good compliment. I do. I love them. I can be like Sherlock Holmes when it comes to compliments or worse, like Mark Twain:

Compliments make me vain: & when I am vain, I am insolent & overbearing. It is a pity, too, because I love compliments. I love them even when they are not so. My child, I can live on a good compliment two weeks with nothing else to eat. – Mark Twain – Letter to Gertrude Natkin, 2 March 1906

I think that there is a place for compliments and a right way to do it. But the point I wish to make is broader. Check out this quote from CNN:

Studies of seventh grade math students, as well as college students in calculus and computer science, revealed a gender gap in performance, but only for those females who believed math ability was a gift. These are the girls who drop out of the economics classes — and who, as women, may avoid working in areas that require a strong growth mindset, like economics, math and computer science.

Many people find that the way they are complimented, insulted, disciplined, or praised leads them to certain mindsets in life. Check out this example from the AoM website:

I’m above calling my son names – even Yiddish ones – but not always able to resist doling out disappointment, even for tiny mistakes like dropping a hot dog. I felt the words stepping up to the batter’s box in my head.

“Come on!”

“What’s the matter with you?”

“I KNEW that would happen.”

“Charlie…” I started, but my son took my lines and rewrote them.

“I’m sorry.  I’m so stupid!” he said, slamming his tiny fists into his thighs. “I’m an idiot! An idiot!”

I painfully recognized both the tone and the words, like a song from my childhood.

And the CNN article, by Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons notes the same thing:

Children praised for their effort or strategies — what’s called “process praise” — develop a growth mindset and become more motivated to tinker with a problem than solve it right off the bat.

Starting in infancy, parents tend to give boys more process praise, an advantage that results in a greater desire for challenge, and a growth mindset, later on. In the classroom, teachers give boys more process feedback, inviting them to try new strategies or work harder after a mistake. As a result, boys learn to see challenges and setbacks as things they can tackle with the right plan.

Girls, perhaps seen as well-motivated already, are given fewer messages to try harder or again. They are left to wonder whether their challenges reflect something deeper about their ability.”

Criticizing how young people do things and praising their effort and the steps they take is perhaps more useful than praising their traits, “You’re so smart, you’re so tall, you’re so fit…” But these same strategies are useful for our own self-talk as well. Looking in a mirror and saying, “You’re fat.” Or, “You’re sexy” will not be as useful as going to the gym. Similarly, looking in the mirror of the Scriptures and saying, “I’m good” or “I’m evil” will not be as useful as confessing your sins and choosing this day whom you will serve.”

Anyway, I think that success is largely related to mindset. I tend to have a fixed mindset, probably due to having an allegedly above average IQ (it’s not true, I use this trick to seem smart), but I’ve found myself more easily adapting to situations as I try to use self-talk to commit to growing from experiences rather than to demean or compliment myself based on my apparent abilities.