Is Positive Psychology at odds with faith and Christian Spirituality?


In the past, I’ve been a fan of Psychology but since I got reverted to the Catholic faith, I’ve been adapting the Ignatian Spirituality and the Saint’s Spirituality especially that of St. Therese–patient suffering, finding God in all things, faith alone suffice, Christian devotions (mass, prayer, retreats).

Ive been having issues in my previous work. I developed anxiety attacks and fears. I lost my confidence in myself and have been having doubts in my spirituality and dreams. But I embraced all these things because I see my suffering as partaking the suffering of Christ. I also would like to practice patient-suffering.

However in my work right now, they are advocating this POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY. The think big, think bright skies, dream big always and be happy always approach.The hardest thing for me is really to dismiss suffering and to **divert my attention to positive visualizations **. Another thing is to dream big and high. I find it difficult since, I want to obey whatever God gives me and not to dream of my own (St. Faustina mentality). I also want to rely on prayer alone and not my own thoughts (St Teresa of Avila)…But another thing that I promised myself is that I will obey my boss as my superiors in that they are the voice of God for me. I tried the positive psychology approach, it is actually working and helping me overcome my fears and lack of confidence, but I also at times feel that this is at odds with that of the saints’ spirituality—i mean for me they are greater models than psychology.

I’m planning to adopt this mentality…however is it at odds with faith, is it another form of new age movement?


I think we can embrace suffering when it is thrust on us but we do not need to make it a part of us.

It sounds like you are using your suffering to define you and I don’t think you are even considering if that is God’s plan for you. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean “plan” in the protestant way that says God has some map for our lives that we must follow or be lost. I mean God’s plan for all our salvation. If you are embracing suffering because you think you must or you expect some outcome, you are being wrong-minded.

God created beautiful days for us to enjoy and appreciate. Why not picture the most beautiful thing you can think of within God’s creation and thank Him and acknowledge its beauty and magnificence.

When you are asked to picture these positive images, be sure to give glory to Him and there is no way for you to go wrong.


Christian teaching regarding joy and hope, just a few quotes from Scripture:

" Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice". Philippians 4:4

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” Romans 12:12

“Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing”. Psalm 100:2

“A joyful heart is life itself,
and rejoicing lengthens one’s life span.
Indulge yourself and take comfort,
and remove sorrow far from you,
for sorrow has destroyed many,
and no advantage ever comes from it.
Jealousy and anger shorten life,
and anxiety brings on premature old age”. Ecclesiasticus 30:22-24

O God, I humbly implore…
In my lack of trust, let me live faith.
In my disappointment, let me live hope.
In my bleakness, let me live joy.
In the emptiness of my heart, let me live love.
In my deprivations, let me value what is precious before You.
In my weakness and illness, grant me spiritual health.

In my anger and resentment, let me live generosity and forgiveness.
In my detachment, let me live community.
In the difficulties of commitment, let me be dedicated.
In my failures, let Your Spirit bless and heal.
In my successes, let Your will be served.

In human reality, let me live spiritual wisdom.
In maturity, let me become true child of the Father.
In my individuality, let me live in Eucharistic communion.
In the kind and warm things that I try to do, let Your grace flow.

In the confusion of my life, in my striving and good intentions
—regardless of my doubts, mistakes and infirmities, let me fully live Your will in vibrant, humble trust.


I mean this part. Accepting suffering as it is. I mean, in the spiritual literature that I’ve been reading, Saints choose to suffer…not in a sadistic way but to allow themselves to go through the passion of Christ (as willed by God) or as a form of penance. I recall St. Francis of Assisi refused medical help even as he was going blind. St Teresa of Avila while she was suffering from physical ailment, chose to offer her suffering to God to give Him more glory. St. Faustina did the same…for a greater merit and for the salvation of souls in that sense.

Positive psychology is so sound. It’s easier, it’s more promising but I wonder if it’s really a great good for Christians.I put the saints as greater examples because of such exemplary lives they live. I cant really comprehend them though I am experimenting if such practices are really appropriate for me. I’m finding the mean for me.

Thank you so much for your response:D


We can still take up our cross, carry it and follow Jesus at the same time smiling. There is no need to let the whole world know about our heavy crosses. It is between God and ourselves.

We should always think positive no matter what. Life itself is a reason for us to smile and we should always be thnkful for every little blessing the Lord has given us.


i dont know. But I feel that holiness is a much greater good than choosing temporary happiness even positive psychology. Look at the 96 years old grandpa dobri, who suffering and redeem for his great sin (as he says) begs daily for God’s forgiveness–a modern day St Francis of Assisi. I dont know if I am rationalizing suffering, but the saints speak so much about it…i want to understand why…that third kind of humility st ignatius of loyola is speaking about—to choose to suffer contempt, poverty, adversity for Christ’s sake…to be considered a fool for Christ…

such a holy man…i desire to be like him…like Christ…but I am ashamed before God because I do not have the strength right now to be like him in all things. Grandpa Dobri is such a saint. I feel humbled.


Maybe if you can explain what it is in being Positive, you think contradicts in Catholicism so we can understand better.


who can say


I sense your sincerity but it’s hard to fathom depth over the internet, so forgive me if I am stating the obvious.

The Saints speak so much about it because it is all around us and we only gain a fuller understanding by reaching out to those that are already suffering. Sometime God will give us a better way to relate to them that is by causing great suffering in our own lives.

For example; I was speaking to an old woman on her deathbed, and she shared with me that she was still angry with God for taking her son from her; though this had happened 30 or so years before. Now it occurred to me, a 30 something at that time, that I was way out of my depth on this one. I could offer he what I was sure she already knew: that Mary could relate to losing a son, that this woman should seek God’s grace of understanding and peace through Mary. But even as I tried to form that thought in my mind, it was blown away by a conversation I had had with another woman only days before who had lost her son (horrifically I might add). I was somehow able to repeat, almost verbatim the conversation I had had with that other woman to the woman on her deathbed. In the conversation with the earlier woman, I had been outraged and very angry with God over the horror of how the woman’s son was taken. So extreme was my anger and outrage that I apologized to the mother at one point.
You see the earlier mother had complete peace with the horrific loss of her son. Don’t get me wrong, it still hurt, she still wishes it could have been another way, but she not only accepts God’s will, she embraces it (changed tense here to emphasize she still does).
So at that point in time, when the angry mother on her deathbed needed it most, I was able to touch her suffering in the most intimate and painful way through the love of the other suffering mother. I believe the Holy Spirit used the earlier mother’s words to guide the dying mother back to God…

Understanding suffering and being closer to God begins and ends with reaching out to others in their suffering; but always, *always *guided by the Holy Spirit.

The minute it becomes about “us” is the minute we lose the Grace that was being offered.
It’s similar to how we need to find physical nourishment (food/water) from *outside *ourselves. If it comes from us, it will never nourish us.

You say you “do not have the strength to be like Him”. Well, of course not. Good job recognizing that. If it is God’s will, the strength will come to you.

Simply. Always. Seek His will. (You are, right?)
You will be fine.


One needs to be careful about romanticizing suffering. Not going to a doctor when one is sick is not a sign of sainthood, especially in this day and age. Positive thinking is not automatically going against God or Church teaching.

For example, if not going to the doctor when they could cure you would not be a good use of the skills God gave that doctor. In defense of St. Francis, the doctor probably couldn’t have healed him. Would you not were glasses that allowed you to see because St. Francis didn’t? I hope not, especially since glasses hadn’t been invented.

Positive thinking/goal setting can be used for good or for bad. If you decide you are going to make a lot of little knit hats for premises, that is a good goal. However, if you decide that in order to meet that goal, you will steal the yarn and ignore your family, then it is not a good goal. If you decide to be positive about your own problems/sufferings that can be good. However, if you refuse to solve those that can be solved, because you should be okay with suffering, that is not good, nor, most likely, is it what God wants.


Here is an article that you might find helpful. According to Dr. Kaczor (and I agree, though I’m no expert) positive psychology can help us in our life of faith. The two need not be seen as at odds with each other.


Catholicism doesn’t require that we do nothing about our problems if there are solutions. It doesn’t require that we be miserable either.


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