Preface to Enthusiastic Ideas

In 1995, the most traumatic event in my life to that point occurred. My wife and the mother of our two sons felt that she could no longer remain within our marriage, and so she left that relationship to find another life.

In the ensuing months, as I struggled to adapt to the painful realities of single-parenthood, I tried to learn everything I could that might help me win back my wife’s love. Those efforts were not successful, unfortunately, but one of the things I did back then has resulted in this book — Enthusiastic Ideas: A Good Word for Each Day of the Year.

I began to keep a notebook. Not a journal exactly, just a notebook in which I would write down truths and principles I needed to be reminded of. I remember writing to myself that if I ever expected my wife to come back, I would need to offer her the gift of certain unconditional things: love, security, listening, acceptance, and several others.

At first, my list of “gift words” was fairly short, but it didn’t take me long to think of a number of other qualities that I should be prepared to give, if I got the chance. And as the list grew, it began to be clear that these were not just things a husband should want to give his wife — they were gifts that all of us should want to give to those we love.

After that, the list started evolving into a more general list of “positive words.” No longer looking for just “gift words,” I included other words that might be looked at in a positive way. At the height of this word-collecting period, I could hardly read a book or an article without checking to see if it contained any words I hadn’t thought of. I don’t recall ever actually going through the dictionary, but it’s hard to imagine that many good words eluded my search. I was pretty thorough, if not methodical. By the time things settled down, I had over eight hundred nouns, each of which I thought was suggestive of something worth including in a human being’s character and conduct.

I posted my list of words on a website I was maintaining back then, and I still chuckle when I remember some of the comments I received from readers: “Henry, what’s with this crazy list of words? What can anybody do with just a list of . . . words?

Well, I happen to believe that words are very special things. I love them, I respect them, and I believe that getting “thinky” about the words we use is a very healthy exercise.

So I’ve written a book that gives you a single positive word to think about every twenty-four hours: a good word every day. Like my other books, this one is a daybook. There is a short, one-page reading for each day of the year, and what I’d like you to do is read the book at the rate of one page per day. Sure, you can browse ahead or go back and review. That’s fine. Just promise me you’ll really meditate on no more than one page each day. If you’ll try this habit, you might like it.

With a few of the words, you may wonder what’s so positive about them. I’ve written, for example, about things like abstinence, admonition, and apologies. Words like these don’t belong in the “positive mental attitude” lexicon, do they? Maybe not, but let’s give them a fair chance. Like people, some words wear their positive qualities on the surface, while others aren’t seen to be good without a deeper look. As J. R. R. Tolkien liked to say, “All that is gold does not glitter.”

And, yes, since I collected over eight hundred words, I have enough for more than one year. A second volume of these readings is not only possible; it has already been written. Next year, More Enthusiastic Ideas will be coming to a bookstore near you, unless God has other plans.

Over the years, I have profited as much as anyone from writers and speakers in the “positive mental attitude” genre. We do need to think more positively, and doing so is a great help. But the only positive thinking that matters is the kind that results in our doing what is right. And if better self-esteem is what we want, then we need to start living not only with strength but also with honor. I hope you’ll agree.

Finally, may I caution you never to use the expression “mere words.” Words are never “mere.” They are strong and beautiful. Use them carefully, for language is both a powerful gift and a serious stewardship. Say nothing you will not be pleased to meet on Judgment Day.

Gary Henry –

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