Aug 30, 2022
A new “manifestation trend” called “The Whisper Method” has gone viral on TikTok. If the word salad in that sentence is new to you, “manifestation” is the practice of focused, intense thinking about what you want until you get it. The practice is grounded in New Age philosophy and seems to re-emerge every few years in some new form. The “Whisper Method” is the latest manifestation of manifestation, and TikTok is where it is all happening.
The “Whisper Method” involves thinking of what you really want and identifying who can give it to you. Then, you are to imagine whispering instructions into that person’s ear, such as, “You’re going to give me that promotion.” Or, “You’re going to fall in love with me.” If you really believe (and whisper), then eventually you shall receive.
We’ve seen this kind of thing before. Years ago, Oprah popularized “The Secret,” a philosophy that if people put “positive thoughts and vibes”’ into the universe, they’d get positive results back. In other words, if we send out energy claiming a bigger bank account, a smaller waist, or a better parking spot during Christmas, we’ll get those things.
From a motivation standpoint, it’s easy to understand how something like The Secret or The Whisper Method gains traction. It involves little work with big rewards. Beneath the irrationality and geographic specificity (these strategies aren’t very popular in war-torn areas or regions inflicted by famine), there is a truth. The human imagination is incredibly powerful.
In a 2006 episode of Oprah, she described “The Secret” this way: “What you focus on gets bigger.” Short of the weird metaphysical claims to be able to “manifest” new objective realities, Oprah was not entirely off base. God created humans with creative ability. We cannot create out of nothing, or ex nihilo, like God did, but humans are unique among creation in our ability to make something out of the world around us. Thus, humans invent and build and improve and innovate. And, in Psalm 37, we are told that if we “delight” ourselves “in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart,” though that has more to do with God first giving us rightly ordered desires once He is our ultimate delight.
Various studies have demonstrated that athletes who routinely imagine themselves performing well often develop a measurable competitive edge. However, even the most imaginative and sincere visualization techniques cannot magically bend reality. Thus, researchers believe that visualizing strong athletic performance is a way of practicing the sport. Not to mention, that any athletic improvements served by visualizations are in addition to actually physically practicing the sport.
The Whisper Method isn’t about training for a good performance or searching our hearts and motives to make sure they align with the will of God. The Whisper Method is about the illusion of control. It assumes that internal focus can determine external realities. This desire for control is nothing new, nor has The Whisper Method shifted from changing our own actions in place of manipulating the actions of others. In that way, The Whisper Method reflects the cultural ethos that other people are primarily objects to be used in service to our own ends.
We didn’t make the world, and we’re not in charge of it. God did, and He is. We’re not to worry ourselves over controlling it but instead are to “cast all our anxieties on Him.” If we are going to “whisper,” it should be in prayer to the God who made us and loves us.
In honest prayer, our hearts are taught what they truly desire. In prayer, we place those desires at the feet of our Heavenly Father, ask Him to conform them and us to His will, trusting that everything He does will be for our good. All of which makes prayer the opposite of The Whisper Method, which only pretends that we can control the world and assumes that our strategies for controlling it are fully informed and perfectly wise, as if we have the faintest idea of what’s really best for us. We don’t.
In his book on prayer, Pastor Tim Keller wrote that “God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything He knew.” Thank goodness we don’t live in a world where our wishing, or our “whispering,” makes it so.