The Boston Celtics are back. For the first time since 1995, the Celtics are in the National Basketball Association playoffs.
So what changed? Evidently it's not the makeup of the team with a few exceptions, the players are pretty much the same. But there is a new coach and a new approach: emphasizing the positive. Praising the players for what they do right instead of berating them for what they do wrong.
Celtics player Walter McCarty says, "There's more focus on what you can do instead of what you can't" (The New York Times, May 19).
When Jim O'Brien, the Celtics coach, wants to show the team how to do a play the right way, he doesn't show them film clips of their mistakes. He shows them clips of the times they've done the play perfectly. He says: "Positive reinforcement seems to work better" (The Boston Globe, May 14).
After the game, no matter what the outcome, O'Brien is known to encourage his players rather than criticize them. There are undoubtedly other factors contributing to the turnaround. But there's no question that O'Brien's focus on the good is having a positive impact.
Dwelling on the good rather than the bad strikes a chord with me in my own work as a spiritual healer. As a Christian Science practitioner, I've learned to recognize and love the good that God has created in each of His children, and not allow myself to be overwhelmed by the negative. This standpoint goes more deeply than positive thinking; it's based on spiritual truths found in the Bible and Mary Baker Eddy's book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures."
Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, describes this foundation for healing. She says: "The Bible declares: 'All things were made by Him [the divine Word]; and without Him was not anything made that was made.' This is the eternal verity of divine Science. If sin, sickness, and death were understood as nothingness, they would disappear. As vapor melts before the sun, so evil would vanish before the reality of good. One must hide the other. How important, then, to choose good as the reality!" (pgs. 480-481).
Good isn't a creation of the human mind something we have to try to make up, then to convince ourselves of its existence. Rather, good is a creation of God and therefore is always present in everyone.
Recognizing and loving the good in another individual, a team, or ourselves often takes courage especially when what we see before us is so contrary to good. But when we ask God to show us the good He has created, and then are willing to love it enough so that we give up our belief in whatever would undermine good, progress and healing result.
For example, several years ago I was battling depression. I called a Christian Science practitioner to pray with me for healing. Even in my greatest moments of despair, I could always feel her unwavering love that said she believed more in my goodness and wholeness as a child of God than in the darkness. No matter how much I doubted my own worth or felt hopelessly stuck in dark thoughts, she refused to go along with them.
Eventually, I felt the transforming power of God's love that convinced me of my own worth and goodness. The depression was healed and I felt free.
I've had many healings of a sprained ankle, cracked ribs, severe headaches, a severe throat and respiratory problem, drinking, smoking, taking recreational drugs. Each healing came about when I was more conscious of the good that God created in me than of the problem.
The apostle Paul in the Bible, as translated in "The Message" by Eugene Peterson, encourages us to find the good and stick with it. He says: "Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse" (Phil. 4:8).