The True Joy of Positive Living: An Autobiography

The True Joy of Positive Living: An Autobiography

by Norman Vincent Peale

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The True Joy of Positive Living: An Autobiography by Norman Vincent Peale

The inspiring autobiography of the world-renowned minister and revered self-help giant whose positive thinking techniques have bettered the lives of millions of people

In his 95 years, Norman Vincent Peale made a profound difference. The son of a minister in Lynchburg, Ohio, he went on to preach the Lord’s word at Manhattan’s now-famous Marble Collegiate Church, where he served as pastor for 52 years and oversaw the church’s growth from 600 members to more than 5,000. He had a popular radio program for more than half a century, and appeared regularly on television. But perhaps his most lasting and powerful contribution was as author of the mega-bestseller The Power of Positive Thinking, the groundbreaking book that provided new guidance and hope and changed countless lives for generations throughout the world.
The True Joy of Positive Living is the inspiring true story of a humble man who started out poor in a small Midwestern town and rose to become one of the most famous and influential American figures of the 20th century—a man of God who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. Together with this wife Ruth, Dr. Peale founded the Peale Center for Christian Living and Guideposts magazine to ensure that his messages of self-confidence and the power of faith would continue to guide millions around the world even after his death. In his own uplifting words, Dr. Peale shares the story of a remarkable life lived with dignity and purpose. This stirring chronicle of an extraordinary soul—his unwavering service to the Lord and his remarkable development of the principles of positivity that had a life-altering effect on so many—will be an inspiration to all who read it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504023320
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 09/29/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 290
Sales rank: 338,578
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (1898–1993) was a Methodist minister, motivational speaker, and bestselling author renowned for promoting positive thinking as a means to happiness and success. He served as the pastor of the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan for fifty-two years and delivered sermons nationwide on his radio and television program The Art of Living for several decades. In 1952, he published his most influential and popular book, The Power of Positive Thinking, which has been translated into dozens of languages and has sold more than twenty million copies worldwidePeale espoused optimism and faith in numerous other books, including Why Some Positive Thinkers Get Positive ResultsThe Power of Positive Living, and The Positive Power of Jesus Christ.

Peale was the cofounder of the Horatio Alger Association, an organization committed to recognizing and fostering success in individuals who have overcome adversity. The association annually grants the memorial Norman Vincent Peale Award to a member who has made exceptional humanitarian contributions. With his wife, Ruth, the author also cofounded the Peale Center for Christian Living, as well as Guideposts—an   organization that encourages positive thinking and spirituality through its non-denominational ministry services and publications with a circulation of more than 4.5 million. In 1984, Ronald Reagan awarded Peale with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, for his contributions to theology.

Read an Excerpt

The True Joy of Positive Living

An Autobiography

By Norman Vincent Peale


Copyright © 1984 Norman Vincent Peale
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-2332-0


Country Boy from Ohio

Many people were surprised when I ended up a preacher, although I never got into too much devilment and was not what might be called a bad kid. In the small Ohio towns of the early 1900s, a preacher's kid was considered "different" and made to feel so. Every little thing he did that was a bit out of line marked him as a sinner. Preachers' kids' reputations generally were suspect.

But several influences conspired to make a minister out of an unlikely prospect for that profession. One was Father's preaching. The way he described Jesus Christ gave me, early in life, a profound admiration and enthusiasm for the Master. He had an incomparable way of making Christianity real and very exciting. He was a fascinating public speaker. I had enormous respect and affection for Father and always liked to hear him preach. So I was a regular churchgoer.

One summer Sunday in my boyhood, my mother was teaching a Sunday School class in the little Methodist church in Lynchburg, Ohio. Mother started out by commenting on the current status of the Cincinnati Reds, our baseball heroes. Then she launched into a description of Jesus, how He "set his face to go to Jerusalem," knowing very well what would happen to Him. What a man. What courage. Mother called it "guts." But He resolutely walked straight into the camp of His enemies because He loved me and was willing to die for me. That belief gripped me for life. It made me love Him forever. To me there has never been anyone like Him.

Although I tucked up this love and admiration for Jesus against my heart, had an accompanying love for the old hymns, liked to hear a good preacher, and was a believer, still I was what they called "not in the Kingdom." I was a vital, virile boy and attracted by the fleshpots, though I never did quite find out what they were all about.

I knew that my mother always wanted me to become a preacher. Father never pushed that idea, saying that I should learn from God what He wanted me to do in life and follow the divine will and guidance. Though I was drawn toward the ministry, I resisted it because, as a preacher's son in those small Ohio communities, I always seemed to be set apart as someone different from the other kids. If I did the slightest thing, like smoking corn silk behind the barn with the others, some would jeer: "Oh, you're a preacher's kid." This galled me, as it similarly troubled other sons and daughters of ministers, but such youthful trauma usually vanished as maturity advanced. However, I knew some ministers' children resented this attitude toward them so deeply that they repudiated the church altogether, though retaining personal veneration for their parents.

In one Ohio town we lived in, every Monday morning my father would go to the bank and the president would give him his salary check for the week. The banker would expect him to deposit the check forthwith in his bank. As he handed the check to Father, he would always ask, "Now, Brother Peale, do you think your sermon yesterday justifies this check?"

This riled me no end, for I usually accompanied Dad on this Monday morning ritual. But Father was urbane and responded in kind to this so-called witticism. It amazed me that my father and the banker were friends; I even found later that they actually loved and respected each other.

The banker lived in a big house down Main Street. It was set back, regally, among old trees, and a curving drive swept up to the door. Every morning a driver would take him in a spanking, shiny carriage, drawn by two beautiful black horses, down to the bank and back for lunch, and down and back in the afternoon. All as if he were some Roman conqueror; or at least that is how I resentfully thought of it. Who was this big shot to whom the servant of Almighty God had to come like a respectful suppliant?

But Father said, "One needs to know all about an individual, or at least all you can know, before a proper judgment may be formed. Now take this banker. He is the son of a poor farmer, a father who could never make a go of his few rocky acres. The family was poorer than we are. That boy came into town one day years ago and went up and down the street looking for a job, any kind of job. Finally he was hired by this bank as a janitor. He swept out, washed the windows, dusted the desks, ran errands, cleaned the toilet, and he did each lowly chore with cheerfulness and to the best of his ability. Years came and went, and finally he became bank president.

"He married a lovely girl and they lived together in happiness for twenty-five years or more. Then early one morning that team of horses and carriage you resent came to me and carried me to his big house where, for all his wealth and position, his lovely wife could not be saved. I was there when she died and sat with him in his grief. 'I'll never forget you and what you have done by being with me in the worst hour of my life,' he said, gripping my hand at the door.

"He has never spoken of it again, but it is his nature to conceal his feelings. But, you see, I know him and in his own way he loves me as one of his closest friends. So don't mind that we carry on that little ritual every Monday morning. It's just a way men have of showing the affection they have for each other."

Thereafter I saw the bank president as a man, rather than as a banker, which was what Father intended, I'm sure. And for this man I began to have compassion. Apparently it reached him because the last time I saw him, he put his arm around my shoulder and said, "Norman, you have a fine man for a father. Take good care of him always." So saying, he went back to his desk and waved me off. He had said all that he could. When some years later I heard of his death, I was saddened, but knew that a good man with clean hands had gone home to his Lord. To love people compassionately and to see the good in every man and woman was what my father taught his children by precept and example.

Then there is the lifetime memory of that Sunday night in winter when Father was holding the annual series of revival meetings in a little church in a small village in southern Ohio. In those days the two weeks of revival, with meetings every night, was the big event of the year in the country round about. There were no movies, no radio, no television to compete. The church had preeminence. It was not only the spiritual center but the entertainment center, the gathering place. And since Father was a powerful speaker, the church was always filled, and for the revival meetings it was standing room only.

In the little village, there was a man, Dave Henderson, a nice enough fellow when he was sober. But when drunk, he was by common consent "a holy terror." His drinking was periodic and he would be very much in his cups for several days.

Dave was a big man with hands like hams and fists having the driving power of pistons, so said those who had felt their impact in fights. Ordinarily genial, with liquor in him Dave would pick a fight at the slightest provocation. He also had the reputation of being the champion local cusser, and was quite foul-mouthed. Some said he was a wife beater, but his dignified and cultured wife would never admit to anything of the sort.

Curiously Dave was a fairly regular churchgoer, and he would sit in a back pew. He would always shake Father's hand on the way out afterward. "Good sermon, Reverend. I like to hear you talk." Father liked him, and often said that if old Dave ever got religion he would be a great man for the Lord. He worked on the big fellow spiritually, but with no apparent result. Until one night.

After preaching a strongly evangelistic sermon, it was Father's practice to invite any who wished their lives changed to come forward and kneel at the altar, and many did. His ministry resulted in conversions, and most remained faithful over the years. But this night after the revival sermon, no one had come forward, when suddenly there was a stir. Someone was walking down the aisle. The very floor seemed to shake with his tread. Mother looked around. "It's Dave!" she gasped. The big fellow knelt at the altar. He said something to Father. Afterward Father told us what Dave had said: "I don't want to be this way anymore, Reverend. I want Jesus. I want Him to save me." Father prayed with him in a low voice and put his hand in blessing on the big fellow's unruly black hair.

Then Dave arose and faced the congregation. Boy though I was, I was awed by the look on his face, a look of wonder and inexpressible joy. It is printed on my memory to this day. Of course, some said the conversion wouldn't last. How could a renegade like that be changed in a minute of time? But it did last for over fifty years until he died. He became literally a saint, a new man in Christ, and for half a century he blessed the lives of everyone who knew him.

Then one day, only a few years ago, I heard that Dave's long and beautiful life was nearing its end. So I went to see him in his old home in the little Ohio village. I found him in bed, his hair as white as the pillow on which his great head rested. He was emaciated and frail. His hands on the coverlet were thin, the blue veins showing. I took his hand. It still had something of its former massive grip. Anyway, there was love in it. We talked of the old days and of the ways of the Lord Jesus, how He blesses all who love and follow Him.

"Your father was a great man, Norman, greatest man I ever knew. Who can be greater than a man who leads you to the Lord? And I love you, son. You were with me that wonderful night when my soul was cleansed, when the Lord came and saved me, one of His wandering sheep. I'll always love you, Norman."

"And I, you, Dave," I replied, choking up. "Let's have a prayer before I go," I said. "And I want you to pray." I knelt by the bed of the great old saint. He put his hand upon my head. His voice faded at times either through weakness or emotion, but every word is burned into my memory. His blessing is unforgettable. At the door I stood and waved at him. With a gentle smile he lifted his hand. I never saw him again.

As a little boy, awestruck by the mystery of change in a man's very nature, I asked Father to explain it. "All I can say is that it is the power of God." Then he added, "The Creator is also the re-creator." But the incident with Dave impressed my consciousness with the wonder and the glory of the ministry. I am certain that this, added to other experiences, overcame my resistance to becoming a minister.

I was born on May 31, 1898, in Bowersville, Greene County, Ohio, a charming village of some three hundred people, located on a dusty road running through lush pastureland. It was as peaceful and idyllic a spot as could be found anywhere in the Buckeye State, and it remains so today, even though it is only about a mile north of the Ohio Turnpike, halfway between Cincinnati and Columbus.

My father, Charles Clifford Peale, pastor of the local Methodist church, had been trained as a physician and had practiced medicine in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the health commissioner in Milwaukee when he became very ill. His mother despaired of his life, and being intensely religious, she "promised the Lord" that if her son, Cliffy, was spared, she would endeavor to persuade him to abandon his medical career and become a preacher of the Gospel.

His return to health seemed a direct answer to prayer, and Clifford Peale, while in no way unduly subject to maternal domination, felt the influence of Providence and became convinced that his recovery did indicate that he was intended, by the Lord, to devote himself to full-time Christian service as a minister.

He had all the instincts of a physician, which he carried over into the ministry, and he became, I think, one of the first to demonstrate the working partnership in two healing disciplines: that of doctor of medicine and that of doctor of mind and spirit. As both an M.D. and a D.D., Father claimed whimsically that he was a paradox.

At any rate, my father turned out to be a very effective pastor and preacher. His first "charge," as it was termed in those days, was in 1895 at the village of Sugar Tree Ridge in southern Ohio. He and his bride, in a long one-day trip by horse-drawn wagon, a journey of some fifteen miles, transported their meager household goods from Lynchburg, Ohio, where they had grown up, to the little village to establish their first home. Three years later they moved to Bowersville, where I joined the family.

We were poor, but I never knew that we were. Later, sociologists wanted people like us to believe that somehow we had been mistreated by society. But we were good, clean, self-respecting, decent American poor, and we were not one bit ashamed of it.

At Bowersville my father was pastor of what was then called a "circuit." He served three little churches scattered over an area of perhaps ten square miles. He would preach at one church on Sunday morning; at another, Sunday afternoon; and at the end of the Sabbath day he was in the third. From each church he might return home with a bushel of apples, a bag of potatoes, a basket of vegetables, sometimes a loaf or two of home-baked bread (I can almost smell its fragrance even now); and so we were able to get along famously.

He had to collect his own pay. I recall going with him once to a big brick farmhouse where the farmer gave him two round silver dollars. "That's all you've got coming to you, Reverend," explained the parishioner. "Due to the bad weather I've only been to church two times this winter." To which Father, who could always see humor in life, said, "Well, I'm glad to know that my sermons are increasing in value, for last time you only gave me fifty cents per sermon."

Mother's name was Anna DeLaney. She was the daughter of a native-born Irishman, Andrew DeLaney, and her mother, Margaret Potts, was a descendant of a member of George Washington's staff on the distaff side. Margaret Potts was a lady of English heritage. But somehow the Irish strain seemed to predominate in Mother's personality. She had a fair skin, blue eyes, and golden hair, and she walked with a charming, graceful carriage. I will always remember her hands as soft and gentle, but they were strong, too, with the effects of toil on them. She always did her own housework. At the same time she had an outstanding career in religious leadership. Everyone who knew Anna DeLaney in her youth, with one accord, told me that she was "the most beautiful girl in Lynchburg," some even going so far as to say "the loveliest young lady in Highland County."

Not long after my father returned from Milwaukee to Lynchburg, he was standing in the Peale Brothers store looking out at the passersby, when he saw a vision of loveliness walking up the main street of the village. Struck by her beauty and dignity, he asked his father, "Pa, who is that girl?"

"That is Anna DeLaney," replied Samuel Peale.

"Well, Pa, I'm going to marry that girl," announced Cliff Peale. And sure enough he did just that on October 25, 1895, in the Methodist church in Lynchburg. Mother always said she held him off awhile so that he would not be conceited.

In all my growing-up days I thought she was the loveliest lady I had ever seen. I can remember her yet, always impeccable in her long white dress, a beautiful hat atop her golden hair, gracefully walking on a summer's day with a colorful parasol over her shoulder. And her beauty of face was matched by her beauty of character. I was always so proud of her. To me she always seemed everything that was good and fine. Mother was always a Christian woman of the old school, though not without a sense of humor and a happy delight in life.

The Irish in her nature would inevitably come out in the old Irish songs, which she sang in her sweet voice, and in poems about fairies on the lawn. She would recite traditional stories of the Emerald Isle that had been told her by her father and which she, in turn, passed on to her children. She possessed in full measure the proverbial Irish wit, romance, and tearful emotion. With misty eyes she would tell us romantically of old Erin, which she had never seen but which was very real to her nevertheless. But someday, some wonderful someday, she hoped to put her feet at last on the old sod of the Emerald Isle from whence her idolized father had come in the long ago.

Her mother, Margaret Potts DeLaney, was a dignified lady of the old ways. I remember her always in a rather formal black dress. She had the manners of an aristocrat, as befitted her background, but her humility and sweetness of nature endeared her to everyone, rich or poor. While she had the aristocratic manner, she was of that quality of character wherein she also had the common touch. I recall the delicious meals at Grandma DeLaney's house and the cultured character of her home; and even though she passed away when I was quite young, I can visualize her clearly over the mists of years as a great lady with a loving heart. My own mother took after her to a marked degree, blending her mother's dignity with her father's Irish wit and emotionalism, a remarkable and unforgettable combination.


Excerpted from The True Joy of Positive Living by Norman Vincent Peale. Copyright © 1984 Norman Vincent Peale. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


CHAPTER ONE Country Boy from Ohio,
CHAPTER TWO Steamboats on the River,
CHAPTER THREE Aluminum Salesman,
CHAPTER FOUR Chapel Steps,
CHAPTER FIVE Ink on the Fingers,
CHAPTER SIX South Station,
CHAPTER SEVEN Brooklyn in the Roaring Twenties,
CHAPTER EIGHT Upstate on a May Day,
CHAPTER NINE Sidewalks of New York,
CHAPTER TEN Facing a Hard Job,
CHAPTER ELEVEN The Going Gets Tough,
CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Message Goes Nationwide,
CHAPTER FIFTEEN Friends and Acquaintances,
CHAPTER SIXTEEN I Found That Prayer Works,
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Warm Friendships and Hot Water,
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Some Politicians,
CHAPTER TWENTY Health, Energy, and Long Life,
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Help in Time of Sorrow,
About the Author,

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