Joyce Meyer is one of America's most popular evangelists, reaching millions via her television show and best-selling books. Known for her tough-talking preaching style, she has challenged listeners to "grow up" as Christians. Her multimillion-dollar Joyce Meyer Ministries is active in evangelism and aid work worldwide--it is currently involved in tsunami relief--but has also been criticized for financial impropriety. Meyer spoke with Beliefnet about her recent books, "Seven Things That Steal Your Joy" and "In Pursuit of Peace."
Many of your viewers remark on your no-nonsense preaching. In one of your books, you say the "truth hurts sometimes." What painful truths do people need to hear?
Individuals need to be willing to face truth about their attitudes, behaviors, even what we want out of life. Jesus said if you know the truth, the truth will make you free. We always delight in telling everybody else the truth about them, but we often have a difficult time facing the truth about ourselves.
I'm only going to stand before God and give an account for my life, not for somebody else's life. If I have a bad attitude, then I need to say there's no point in me blaming you for what's wrong in my life.
A lot of times, people make other people responsible for their joy: "You're not making me happy, you're not doing this, you're not doing that." I found out just in the past two or three years that my personal joy is not somebody else's responsibility. It's my responsibility.
How can other people become responsible for their own joy? You talk about people "changing their mental channel." How can they do that?
Your joy comes from how you think, the choices that we make in life. You know, I'm dealing with somebody right who's spent a lifetime making bad choices. Now they don't like the result of their life, so they want to put the responsibility on everybody else to take care of them and make them happy.
If you want to have sustained joy, you have to not only make sure that you think right, but you also have to make decisions now that are going to guarantee some joy in the future. One of the key things for people as far as joy is concerned is not living a selfish, self-centered lifestyle where we live our lives expecting everybody else to do something for us.
So we can find joy by not thinking about ourselves.
Right, by not being selfish and self-centered. There's such a push in our whole society today to take care of yourself, buy this for yourself, "you deserve it."
I used to be a very selfish, self-centered person. I was always mad at somebody because my life wasn't what I thought it should be.
The whole Bible rests on the principle of sowing and reaping. From the very beginning in Genesis, it says as long as the earth remains, there will seed time and harvest. If we sow into other people's lives--whether it's encouragement or helping them with a financial need or giving them a ride or babysitting or whatever we might have to give--then we receive a harvest of joy in our own lives.
One woman I know was extremely depressed. She talked to her pastor and was bemoaning her depressed state. He said, "I want you start X number of times a week baking cookies for somebody and giving them to them." Then she was like, "How in the world is that going to help my depression?" And he said, "Because you have your mind on yourself. You need to stop thinking about everything that's wrong in your life." And sure enough, just through starting to bake cookies for people, it helped her get her mind off of herself and her problems and then her joy level increased.
It seems like this idea of managing your emotions--changing your thinking patterns to become more positive--is popular among a lot of evangelists today. How do you think it differs from secular cognitive psychotherapy?
Being positive in thinking right is a godly principle. Even if a person doesn't attach God's name to it, if you operate on a godly principle, you're still going to get good results. There are people in the world who aren't necessarily Christians, but they're just naturally nice people who do a lot for other people. Those people will almost always be prosperous people.