Unfortunately, I'm very good at saying those two words. Lately I've been too good at saying them.
I hear a lot about the importance of positive self-talk. Studies have shown that those who have confidence in themselves do better at achieving their goals, while those who beat themselves up tend to make "I can't" become a reality. Articles and books encourage us to look on the positive side, to recognize our strengths so we can utilize them for our advantage, to grow in confidence so we can face the world and be happy.
I'm a girl who tends to see the worst in myself. I have a long tradition of beating up on myself for my weaknesses and ignoring my strengths. I've crippled myself on multiple occasions by refusing to open up and instead hiding behind "I can't." And I can only say that the familiar speech on positive self-talk is good advice, and I wish I were better at taking it.
Still, it can be hard for someone who grew up in the Christian tradition of thinking ourselves nothing and recognizing our sinfulness. How can we reconcile daily affirming ourselves with words like: "I'm great," and: "I can do this," when numerous saints have set the example of daily reminding ourselves: "I am a sinner and worm"?
The fact is, even the Christian tradition insists on turning "I can't" into "I can." It insists on positivity, or rather hope. And it's just as ambitious as any contemporary optimist, because it insists not just that we can, but that we can do anything.
"I can do all these things... in Him who strengtheneth me."
St. Paul makes it clear. Yes, we're sinners. Yes, in ourselves we're lost causes. But Jesus Christ puts aside our weakness in favor of His strength. His grace makes it possible to move mountains with even the smallest seed of faith.
So next time you're tempted to despair of yourself, to doubt, and to hide yourself behind "I can't", sit down and give yourself a little positive self-talk. Remind yourself that you can, and then ask Him.
"Jesus, I can, if You help me. Help me. I trust in You."