Staying Positive in a Negative World (Proverbs 17:22)
There is a lot of negativity in our lives these days. Watch the news and you will see riots, looting, arson, and other forms of destructive behavior. Drive your car for any length of time and you will be subjected to road rage. Then you factor in the COVID-19 pandemic and the level of negativity just increases. I recently witnessed a woman loudly berating another shopper in the local grocery store for not wearing a face mask. Then, when I left the store, there were two people fighting over a parking spot in a parking lot full of empty spaces.
Somehow America anger and negativity have become ingrained in the culture. Unfortunately, negative attitudes are like COVID-19; they are infectious. On the other hand, good attitudes are also infectious. Consequently, as followers of Christ, it is important that we “infect” the people we interact with—friends and strangers—with a positive attitude. In a world darkened by negativity, you and I can show others the light of Christ; the only real cure for negative attitudes. If you find yourself burdened by negativity, remember the words of Proverbs 17:22: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
WHAT IS A POSITIVE ATTITUDE?
A positive attitude is easy to recognize. Even people who cannot define the concept know a positive attitude when they see one. A positive attitude is one that reflects the image of Christ for the people we interact with. But how do we reflect the image of Christ in our daily lives? Here are some practical ways you an “infect” others with your positive attitude in the midst of negativity:
Focus on the positive in all situations, not the negative
Expect a positive outcome when dealing with problems
Associate with positive people instead of perpetually negative people
Concentrate on solutions rather than problems
Look for lessons in the mistakes and successes of others as well as your own
Take a can-do approach to new challenges
Take the initiative in all situations
Take a proactive approach to all aspects of your life
Turn bad situations into teachable moments
Provide calm and reason in the middle of the storms of life that inevitably arise
It is easier to do the things on this list if we keep the words of Psalm 103:1-2 foremost in our minds. In these verses, we are admonished to praise the Lord with our whole hearts and to never forget what He does for us. When we keep these verses in mind, maintaining a positive attitude becomes less difficult. When we are cognizant of all that God has done and continues to do for us, it is hard to be anything other than positive. However, a caveat is in order here. We should never confuse a positive attitude with false optimism.
It is not uncommon to meet perpetually smiling people who always seem to be upbeat, but in reality, are hiding behind a thin veneer of false optimism. Often these false optimists are vocal advocates of maintaining a positive attitude. Their walls are covered with uplifting posters containing catchy slogans, and their conversations are peppered with feel-good maxims. However, their act has no depth and, as result, quickly falters in the face of adversity. False optimism is a surface-level phenomenon. A real positive attitude comes from a belief that God is in charge and His will is going to prevail. To a believer, the will of God is a good outcome no matter what the outcome happens to be. This is because even if we don’t understand the outcome, we know it is part of the plan God has for us and for the world.
MAINTAINING A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
In Romans 14:19 we are admonished to do those things that lead to peace and mutual edification. One of the things that will lead to peace and mutual edification in a world of negativity is a positive attitude. The point has been emphasized that believers promote positive attitudes in others by exhibiting positive attitudes themselves. Setting a consistent example of a positive attitude for others is essential in helping them develop positive attitudes. To help others put aside their negativity and develop positive attitudes, you must first maintain one yourself. The following strategies will help you meet this challenge:
Memorize and internalize Proverbs 3:5-6. These verses from Scripture tell us to trust in the Lord instead of trying to go it alone. They also tell us that if we do this God will guide us down the right path. Remembering that God is walking beside us is an effective way to maintain a positive attitude. It is difficult to be downhearted, defeatist, or otherwise negative when we are walking with God.
Remember that you control your attitude. There are many factors that can make a day good or bad. Unfortunately, we have no control over most of these factors. Problems crop up unexpectedly and things go wrong. There are a lot of things in life over which you have no control, but the one thing you can control is your attitude. Maintaining a positive attitude is a conscious choice. Nobody can make you have a bad attitude. In fact, your attitude is one of the few things in life you can control.
Accentuate the positive. It is easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the bad thing you see happening around you. To maintain a positive attitude, focus on the good aspects of your life. Begin by being thankful for the many blessing you may be taking for granted. Make a list of the things you have to be thankful for. Then, on days when things aren’t going well, pull out your list and remind yourself of the blessings on the list.
Be solution-oriented. When you find that problems are dragging you down, stop focusing on the problems and start focusing on solutions. The tendency of people is to focus on the things that are getting in their way, slowing them down, or impeding their progress. A better approach is to focus on solutions; identify the things that have to be done to solve the problem in question and start doing those things.
Associate with positive people. It has already been mentioned that people tend to catch each other’s attitudes in the same way they catch COVID-19—by being around each other. Spend too much time around negative people and you are likely to catch a negative attitude. Consequently, it is a good idea to identify positive people and spend as much time with them as possible. In addition to identifying positive people to interact with, read positive literature, listen to positive CDs, and watch positive DVDs. There will always be plenty of negative influences in your life, and you will not have to look far to find them. Negatives have a way of finding you. But positive influences are different. They are available, but more often than not you have to seek them out. Associating with positive people, literature, and other influences might take some work, but the results will be worth the effort.
One more thing: the most positive work of literature you can read is your Bible.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veteran’s Lament: Is This the America We Fought For? and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press.