I know that I’ve written about this concept before, and the repetition of it only reinforces the point: I tend to repeat myself a lot.
As a teacher, it comes with the territory. In class, I need to make sure that all 25 of my students have retained all of the information I just relayed to them. So, I will say it once, then rephrase it for them to make sure everyone gets it. Most likely, I will repeat the information twice the next day, as well as posting it online for them to read. It’s not that I like to hear myself over and over; it’s that the repetition helps to cement it in people’s minds.
The idea of repetition has been around, and repeated, forever. Ancient religions, as a practice, have their followers repeat a mantra (a word or sound) several times, which can open up their minds, bettering themselves emotionally and physically. The resounding nature of the Hindu “om,” which is viewed as the sacred, universal sound of the universe, is repeated in meditation and prayer to remind them of their connection to everything. Likewise in yoga, individuals repeat the sound as a mantra, unlocking the universe. The idea is that through repetition of a mantra, or key phrase, you yourself become the key that unlocks the door to those secrets.
Repetition of a word helps to reinforce a concept and remind us of its importance. Hence, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, repeats the word “dream” nineteen times throughout the brief address, as King really wanted to reinforce the optimistic tone of his vision. Many other historical orators have relied on the same concept, and the effect is memorable. Whether it be Churchill stressing the multiple places in which we will fight, or JFK listing the multiple reasons to go to the moon, repetition reinforces and makes a message stick.
So, it would stand to be wise then for the authors of the Bible to utilize repetition to emphasize their points. Among many repeated words and phrases, one concept that is frequently referred to in the Old Testament is the pact between the Israelites and God. In Jeremiah 30.22, the author quotes God with: “You will be my people, and I will be your God.” These words, and several similar variations of them, are repeated to highlight the covenantal relationship we have with God, stressing the promises He makes, how He will keep them, and how we will vow to be His people. If it is repeated as often as it is, it must be important, and when we examine the importance, we see how the entire Old Testament is built upon that foundation, thus paving the way for Christ, fulfilling God’s promise of a savior.
How then does this concept translate to our own lives? I found myself answering that question last week as I was embroiled in a great deal of personal strife, and a specific Bible verse found its way to me that day. Although I found comfort in that verse, comfort wasn’t what I needed: I needed to believe that verse. So, I kept it with me throughout the day, repeating it whenever I saw it or remembered it. And sure enough, the repetition of that verse helped me to deal with my problem. For us, the repetition of a verse or a personalized motto, can have a multitude of benefits.
According to self-help author Meg Selig, the creation of a motto can alter our thinking and how we approach life. A repeated motto can change the course of action in your life, replacing a toxic mindset that permeates your thoughts. It can remind you of who you really are and what you stand for, refreshing core values, strengthening your resolve, and deepening your beliefs. Whether inspiring you to work at something worth doing or a means of calming your thoughts and mind, the repetition of a motto or mantra has numerous valuable results ranging from breaking a habit, replacing negativity, increasing productivity, or giving you the much-needed encouragement to continue.
There are many options to help you develop a motto to repeat to yourself throughout your day. First, decide on what your needs are in your life. Is there something you are dealing with? Something you’d like to change about yourself? Something you’d like to face down and overcome? Then, develop a brief, easy to remember, emotionally intelligent phrase or sentence that meets your needs, or as was my case, find a verse that connects with you, one that helps you through your struggles. Commit it to paper or to memory. Carry it around with you, and in those quiet moments of down time (or when things get most hectic), take it out and repeat it to yourself.
With enough repetition, it will find its way from your mouth to your heart and back out through your thinking and actions. And when you get tired of just repeating it to yourself, meditate on it, thinking about the meaning of keywords, weighing the construction of that sentence or phrase, and evaluating the tone that comes with it. Approach it from a variety of angles, and you will start to see the change you desire occurring within you. God’s promises are repeated over and over to us throughout the Bible, giving us a model for meditation and change. By taking up the mantle of repetition and using it to better ourselves, we can work towards becoming more Christlike in our words and actions, developing towards an existence that more models our savior. Amen.