Are Positive affirmations Biblical? And should Christians use them? 

With the idea of positive affirmations gaining popularity within Christian circles, I believe that it’s crucial that we examine it Biblically. But first…

What are Positive affirmations?

Positive affirmations are a daily practice of repeating encouraging phrases to yourself out loud. Affirmations, such as “I am worthy,” “I am prosperous,” and “I deserve good things,” are believed by psychologists to significantly combat negative thinking and behavioral patterns. 

As such, these positive phrases are frequently used to encourage positive thinking, stimulate behavior, lessen stress, endure challenging situations, and boost well-being. 

However, it’s worth noting that this is a concept borrowed from the New Age movement. The principle behind affirmations in the New Age is to attract what you are speaking about daily. In this belief system, your thoughts and words matter because they can create your reality —a concept closely associated with the law of attraction.

The majority of affirmations start with the word “I am” because they should be spoken and believed in the present tense as if you already possess them.

Today, people all around the world use affirmations to lift their spirits, boost their self-confidence, and accomplish their goals.

The History of Positive Affirmations

I mentioned earlier that the concept of positive affirmations is borrowed from the New Age. However, it was not the New Age movement that gave rise to the practice. Positive affirmations have their roots deep in the ancient Eastern religions (Hinduism & Buddhism) dating back to 1500/1000 B.C. Since the New Age movement gleans heavily from Eastern Spiritualism, positive affirmations were one of the concepts that it borrowed.

Positive affirmations were mostly employed by ancient Buddhists who referred to them as mantras. Mantras are religious verses, poetry, or proverbs spoken aloud during meditation. They were used to calm the mind and concentrate on higher realities.

The usage of affirmations can be traced back to the writings of French psychoanalyst Emile Coue. His patients were instructed to repeat his affirmations every day in order to alter their subconscious thoughts.

However, affirmations didn’t become popular as a tool for personal growth until the 19th century. The idea that using positive thinking can bring about favorable changes in your life was the foundation of the New Thought movement, a spiritual movement, which emerged in the 1800s in the United States.

This marked a turning point in the acceptance of affirmations and stimulated the creation of numerous self-help publications in the 20th Century. In the 21st century, the concept of affirmations made its way into the mainstream circle thanks to the popularity of the Law of Attraction and the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. 

Are they Biblical?

The main reason why positive affirmations are unbiblical is because they often emphasize the power of individual thoughts and words to shape reality. While acknowledging the influence of mindset is not inherently problematic, the Christian perspective places ultimate trust in God’s sovereignty.

Furthermore, New Age concepts are antithetical to the Gospel. They typically emphasize self-empowerment and the belief in the inherent goodness of humanity. And when evaluated from a Christian perspective affirmations turn out to be downright deceptive because they might lead individuals to overlook or downplay the brokenness of humanity and the need for repentance. Yet the Bible says,

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8 ESV
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one..." Romans 3:10 ESV
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Romans 7:18 ESV
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 ESV

Because we are sinful and there is no good in us, the gospel calls us to repentance and placing our faith in Jesus as our savior. But what’s there to repent of if you are too good to perceive your sin? Why would you need Jesus if you’re awesome, worthy, prosperous, and deserving of good things? Why pray even?

Like self-love, affirmations are about making ourselves the center of our daily meditation. This can foster a self-centric worldview where personal desires and ambitions take precedence, rather than God. And when the focus of our affection and devotion is on us, how we feel, and how we can fulfill ourselves then I’m afraid we have fallen into the sin of idolatry. 

On the contrary, the Bible instructs us to set our minds on Christ (Col 3:1-2). We should turn to Him for self-worth, comfort, hope, confidence, and encouragement. These can not be found in us apart from Christ. Any positive thing we possess is a result of Jesus Christ ( Jam 1:17). Moreover, focusing our gaze on Christ relieves us from the pressure of constantly obsessing over how we feel.

Like self-love, affirmations are about making ourselves the center of our daily meditation, rather than God. When the focus of our affection and devotion is on us, how we feel, and how we can fulfill ourselves then I’m afraid we have fallen into the sin of idolatry. 

Contrary to seeking after our own well-being, we are also called to die to ‘self’. And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). Part of dying to self is letting go of the need to have control and using our words as a means to better ourselves.

It feels empowering to think that we can use our words to alter the state that we are in. In fact, studies have shown that positive affirmations can work. But like candy, they give you an energy and confidence boost that lasts only for the short term.

Eventually, it will leave you even more depressed and frustrated than before. Why? because like everything else, the self cannot be the problem and the solution at the same time. 

Jesus said to the woman at the well,

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 ESV

Jesus is the only one who can offer us lasting fulfillment. Positive affirmations, self-care, self-love, etc, come up short in this regard. They will quench your thirst for a period of time but only to leave you thirsty again. 

What about Replacing Bible Verses with Positive Affirmations?

I find it unsettling that many Christian women contend that positive affirmations can be used in a Biblical way. As a result, there is no shortage of videos and blog posts sharing Biblical affirmations that we can declare over ourselves. Here’s why I don’t agree with this. 

First, As we have already established, positive affirmations find their roots in pagan worship. And as Christians, we are not supposed to emulate pagan practices no matter how innocent they may seem.

For the Bible says:

“When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. Deuteronomy 12:29–32 ESV
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Ephesians 5:11 ESV

Moreover, repeating affirmations borders closely on sorcery and witchcraft. In such practices, repeating incantations or mantras is commonly done with the hope of turning the uttered words into reality and to channel spirits. Yet the Bible says, 

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 ESV

Unfortunately, many have fallen for the temptation of “baptizing” positive affirmations by replacing them with Scripture. But isn’t that the same thing as trying to “Christianize” yoga, crystals, tarot cards, etc.? It’s a lie from the enemy that we can redeem pagan practices and use them to glorify God. The Bible makes it clear that we should separate the Holy from the profane:

And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. Ezekiel 44:23 KJV
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you. 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 ESV

How then shall we seek to worship God in a manner that is contrary to what He has commanded?

Lastly, people in the New Thought, Word of Faith, and New Age movements do the same. They use Bible verses to support their conviction in the power of affirmations. (Yes, even New Age experts use the Bible to support unbiblical concepts like the law of attraction). Often, they will employ the phrase “I am,” to manifest their affirmations into reality. However, this is misusing the Bible since they aren’t applying it the way it was intended.

Similarly, repeating to ourselves cherry-picked, positive, and self-soothing, verses of the Bible every day in order to boost our self-concept is misusing the Scriptures. The Bible was never meant to be used for mantras or as a self-help book. On the contrary, we are supposed to study it and meditate on it with the aim of knowing who God is and renewing our minds. Studying and meditating on God’s word is far more powerful than Biblical affirmations could ever be.

Also, riddle me this, can you imagine Jesus repeating affirmations when he was sorrowful and troubled about bearing the weight of our sin on the cross in Gethsemane (Matt 26: 36-44)? What Jesus did instead was pray. And the Lord sent an angel to strengthen Him. This is a perfect example of what we should do when we are stressed, facing challenging situations, and need the strength to endure (Phil 4:6).

The Bible was never meant to be used for mantras or as a self-help book. On the contrary, we are supposed to study it and meditate on it with the aim of knowing who God is and renewing our minds.

Related: What is Manifesting and Why it’s Considered a Sin

So, is it Wrong to Have a Positive Self-Perception?

Certainly Not. Having a healthy self-perception of ourselves is very important. A healthy sense of self-worth or self-concept does not imply that you are detracting from God’s glory; rather, it suggests that you are acknowledging who you are in Christ. We derive all of our value from the fact that God created us. 

But, my point is embracing our identity in Christ requires more than just a positive attitude. It does require you to acknowledge that you are a sinner. But also that you are made whole in Christ. Knowing that you were worth the price that he paid to redeem you from death (1 Cor 6:20). You are loved and chosen by God. And that you have been adopted to the family of God and you bear His name (Eph 1:4-6).

While having a good impression of oneself is not vanity, for a Christian it entails committing to a life of sacrifice, devotion, and submission to God’s Sovereignty. The Bible isn’t meant to flatter and soothe us, but to renew our minds and conform us with God’s Son (Rom 12:1-2).

It also means that we should be wary of riding the wave of culture. Instead, we should test and examine everything through the lenses of scripture. The deceptions of the enemy are often very subtle.


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