The Shocking Truth About Motivational Speakers

You’ve heard of Tony Robbins? It can be argued that he is the most successful and financially well-off motivational speaker of our day. He once held regular events called “Fire Walk with Me,” where attendees would walk across a strip of red hot charcoals as a way of proving to themselves and others that it really is a case of mind over matter.

Of course, a few dozen people during that time had to be treated for second-degree burns on their feet after the event. But I digress.

Robbins' overwhelming success can likely be attributed to his ability to provide something that millions of people look for every day.


They sense something is terribly wrong or broken in their lives and they want to find a way to rise above it all and leave the heartache behind.

Many speakers like Robbins are exceptionally good at providing these people with techniques to adjust the way they think about themselves, their circumstances, and even the other people around them. While not all speakers are pure in heart, we can find something common in their methods:

They work hard to tell you what you want to hear.

Upon hearing that sentence, you might think that I am saying something negative about such speakers. That is not the case at all. Being able to tell someone what they want to hear is both a valuable skill to have and is in many ways a helpful service to provide.

People want to hear that they are not a failure or a screw-up. “Tell me there’s something good in me, something worth a darn, something that can finally make a difference in this backward life of mine.” At different times, to different degrees, that’s all of us.

Here’s the shocking truth about motivational speakers. They're earnestly trying provide what we ALL need: personal assurance. Are some of them lousy at it? Sure. Do some of them focus more on bilking cash out of the pockets of the people they profess to care about? Of course. But the same can be said for doctors, lawyers, and preachers.

This is what you really need to know about positive messaging: it can be thought food. You might not like the packaging it comes in all the time. Tony Robbins, for example, sets my teeth on edge. And you might not always get GOOD food. A lot of motivational thought thrown at us on posters and online memes is really a bunch of nonsense and garbage.

Where do you go when you’re looking for nutritious thought food?

To answer that, you must recognize two qualities that sets healthy thinking above sugary, fluffy thinking.

1. The words must be true.

2. The words must be personally relevant.

I could feed you platitudes all day, but if the platitudes aren’t actually true, if they are not specific to your unique dietary needs, then they will taste stale and cheap.

Consider a verse from the book of Truth:

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).

One of the most quotable verses in the Bible, maybe the part of that verse that goes unnoticed is the first part of it. Fix your thoughts. It doesn’t just say, “Spend a minute thinking about nice things.” That is idle thinking. It's talking about deep, long, repetitive, permanent thinking. Fix your thoughts.

There is a therapist I know who I heard speak publicly one time on the subject of mental health. He made the argument that depression, anxiety, and other growing disorders of today have a common phenomenon. It manifests itself in the minds and hearts of many people like a whirlpool. It is a violent funnel of near endless negative messaging, thousands of poisonous lies spinning around in someone’s head screaming, never letting up.

Then along comes a well-meaning Christian or a pastor on a Sunday morning. They throw out a verse like, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). So the person with depression or anxiety drops that verse into the whirlpool. What do you think happens?

You guessed it. Not a blessed thing. One tiny statement of truth is no match for a whirlpool of lies. If that person wants to make a real change for themselves, they need to pour an equally potent amount of positive truthfulness into that whirlpool. It needs to be ongoing, never-ending. This therapist said that if they do that, it will have the equivalent reaction of someone taking a giant stick and inserting it into the whirlpool and aggressively stirring the stick in the opposite direction. Eventually, the whirlpool  disrupts, and the violent cycle is broken.

If changing your outlook in life is something you desire, you do not need to walk on fire nor do you need to drop $7000 to spend a weekend with Tony. You need only fix your thoughts in a permanent, every-day way on the positive truth that God says about you. Things like:

- “You are a new creation. Old things have passed away; new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

- “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

- “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14).

- “We are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17).

- “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:16-19).

You might have voices in your head denying everything I just wrote here. First let me say, you are not alone. There are many whose mental narrative tries to deny the truth that there is anything good about themselves. The negative whirlpool is quite a common phenomenon today in an age where the voices vying for your attention are as loud and as prolific as at any point in our history. So, you are in like company.

Second, and don’t doubt me on this: the whirlpool is based on lies. That is why the verses above might sound like nonsense. But in fact, God wants you to know the truth about yourself.

So, feed yourself a diet of positive truth to nourish your soul. Don’t stop. Keep feeding it. The lies will die with time. I am NOT saying that constant reading of Bible verses will make everyone's depression and anxiety go away. Only that you need a way to kill the whirlpool and God's truth really can change the narrative.

Pastor Scott