[Slightly revised excerpt from A Practical Guide to Prosperous Living]
The Old Testament offers a good illustration of the importance of self-image and the role it plays in determining how our circumstances unfold. The story is found in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Numbers.
According to the story, after having wandered in the wilderness for many years, Moses brought the nation of Israel to the border of the land the Lord had promised Abraham a few generations before. Moses, desiring to measure the strength and numbers of the occupants of this land, sent in twelve spies to gather intelligence. Upon their return, he summoned the twelve to give their assessment of the situation. They returned from their intelligence gathering mission with good news and bad news. The good news, and all twelve agreed on this, was that this was indeed a land of abundance, a land flowing with milk and honey. The bad news, which they all did not agree on, was whether Israel was capable of overcoming the inhabitants. The majority of spies, eleven to be exact, reported that the people of the land were strong and the cities were large and well fortified. Their conclusion? “We can’t take on these people, for they are stronger than us.”
There was one spy, Caleb, who did not agree. His advice to Israel was this: “Let us go up at once and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it.”
How could it be that Caleb and his eleven companions could see the same people but evaluate them in two completely different ways? The answer is simple. These conflicting evaluations were not based on the actual people they saw. Their evaluations were based on how they saw themselves. This interesting fact is revealed in the report of the eleven when they said, “We seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers and so we seemed to them.”
Naturally, if you see yourself as a “grasshopper,” it is going to affect the way you create your circumstances. A grasshopper mentality affects what you believe you can and cannot do. These grasshopper beliefs influence the decisions you make, your decisions determine actions that are in keeping with your grasshopper beliefs and your actions influence the way your circumstances unfold. In other words, if you see yourself as a grasshopper, you will naturally want to create an environment that accommodates grasshoppers.
Because they saw themselves as grasshoppers, the eleven did not believe they could overcome the inhabitants of the land. They recommended to Moses and the assembly that Israel should take no action against these inhabitants. If the assembly had accepted their recommendation, Israel would never have occupied their land of promise. The circumstances of an entire nation would have been adversely affected by the grasshopper self-image of these eleven spies.
Caleb, on the other hand, did not see himself as a grasshopper. He saw himself as a warrior for the Lord who was simply accepting the land that the Lord had promised Israel through Abraham years before. This divinely-sanctioned self-image gave him quite a different perspective of the situation. It caused him to believe Israel, through the strength of this sacred promise, could overcome these inhabitants.