I've been thinking about negativity a lot the last few weeks. Super fun, right? It has just been striking me especially hard when people around me are super negative and it makes me really sad. I've been lucky to be in community with a lot of people who are very positive. Not like super-bubbly, "life is sunshine and puppies," because that drives me nuts. More like realistic, "life is tough and it's not going to stop being difficult, but it's not going to get me down," sort of positivity. Which is the type that I really appreciate. Because it's what I try to live out in my own life, with varying degrees of success.
I personally believe that I get my positivity from my faith in God. After breaking from the overwhelmingly negative areas of Christianity (which I'll touch on in a second), I found that God is really pretty awesome and He's a victorious King who loved me so much that He chose me to be a part of His family. It's basically why I go to my church. That's the culture they encourage, and one where the punches aren't thrown. People will call you out on your issues, and they will do it in the most loving way possible. I know this because it just happened to me (again) this week. Twice. It's been an interesting time.
Being around that sort of attitude has apparently made me really sensitive to negativity, which is funny to me actually. I was that one kid who always used my brain as an excuse to be smarter than everyone else and call them dumb because I obviously figured out how you were doing everything wrong, so why are you having such a hard time with it? Of course I had no idea how to handle any of my own issues, so there was that. I posted a couple of times on my other blog about my struggles with mild depression, which got a huge boost when my sister and nephews were killed in a car accident a year and a half ago. That obviously rocked my life, and not in a good way. In a lot of ways it gave me an impetus to get myself in order, to figure out how to deal with my emotions more effectively. Because if I didn't, my world would collapse. I know because it did for a few months. It killed the job I did have because I could barely handle myself, let alone a couple of very taxing students (my main tutoring clients at the time). My attempts to find a new one were severely hindered, because again I could barely handle myself.
All of this made finding a way to stay positive in my life a matter of survival, not just something I should probably do sometime because it would make me a better person. And I'm saying this as someone who has definitely not figured out how to make it a daily part of my life. I definitely fail, pretty regularly, because it's very difficult to change years and years of mental pathways and a medical imbalance to boot. But at least I catch myself on it, or someone else will catch me on it (I mentioned that I got called out this week? Twice? Yeah, that's probably why this is on my mind today).
What I really wanted to do was encourage other people to catch themselves on it and make an effort to change their language. I've heard a bunch of people claim that scientific studies prove that the words that you speak have a physiological effect. I'm not a scientist (nor do I really want to be one, fascinating though it is), so I can't speak to the validity of those studies. But in my life, I can tell you that it makes a big difference. Even just this one thing that I often say to kids I'm working with, "you can make that choice but if you do you'll have to deal with the consequences." Or, like today when I was staring down a kid who was aiming a rubber band at me, "make a better choice." Stuff like that is just common sense when you're trying to teach kids to take responsibility for their own actions, but man is it powerful when it echoes in my own head when I'm alone and making choices that I know are not the greatest.
That's just one example. There are countless others. Saying positive things to yourself in the mirror. Which I'm still not great at... but I at least try to smile at myself, which is something. Making it a point to verbally affirm those around you. It's much harder if you don't already have that within you, which is in mind the biggest answer to the question: why do people hurt other people? Because they were hurt and they have had no one around them to help them heal it and bring them to a place of wholeness again. That's become my goal in life. To show people love, and hope that it makes them want to love others. Especially kids. Kids can carry so much hurt and they are usually physiologically incapable of processing it properly, but if you can get to them and show them the way out when they're young, the wounds heal better. Kids are resilient. It's one of the things I love about working with them.
I particularly would love to see positivity embraced within the Church. If you're not a Christian, and you're reading this, you're officially warned. This is where I put on my Bible Student/Teacher hat.
So Christians have this reputation for being super negative about life. And let's be honest, it's pretty well earned. We are the best at turning a great thing (like, say, salvation) and turning it into a terrible thing (guys, Jesus is awesome so obviously, we suck). Which is so not the way of it at all! Let's recap. Jesus is awesome. Yes. Okay, we're all on the same page here. What I believed for so long was that it meant that we are the worst of the worst, not because we are all sinners. Which is also true. I'm not refuting that. The part people seem to miss, that took me awhile to sort out was that God doesn't care. He sent Jesus anyway. Jesus died for us, of His own free will ANYWAY. And then said, hey, by the way, I'm going to redeem you and give you a pretty spectacular direct line to Me (the Holy Spirit) who will also give you a superior ability to change yourself so you can be more like Me.
What part of that is bad? What part of that is supposed to make us despair? The part where God loved us so much that He chose to wipe the slate clean for us? The part where He said that He knew we weren't up to the task of becoming more like Him on our own, so He sent us the Holy Spirit to be our Divine Help? The part where God adopted us into His family to share in the inheritance of Christ? Help me out here. I believed it for so long, and then I took a step back and actually listened to what I was saying. If it weren't for that, I'm not sure I could see how so many people could believe that we have not been given the best gift ever. Or how it could inspire so much negativity.
The most difficult thing about this revelation of the negativity in the modern Church, and getting free from it was... drumroll please! Not being negative about it! Seriously, this is the worst. Because I get back into that "I'm so smart and I figured this out, why can't everyone else just get on board" mentality, which is not great. Also, not at all helpful. I frequently have to remind myself that it was only His grace in my life that got me to this place, and it is a choice I had to make. I still have to make. I make it every day when I'm faced with situations that are tough. Remember I said at the beginning, the people I hang out with and learn from pull no punches. If life is tough they look it directly in the eye and introduce it to God, because He covers all. You don't hang around that a lot without it affecting your mindset. I intentionally keep myself in that company because I know that I need that influence in my life a lot right now.
Maybe that's why the last month or so the negativity of people around me has been particularly noticeable. I am still at the point where I make the wrong choice very often. Then I pray a lot and try and make better choices next time. But it's definitely an uphill battle, and when it's a part of your environment too it increases the grade of the slope a bit. On the other hand, I find myself thinking that I never want to have that terrible of an outlook on life, because I've been there and it's exhausting and defeating and all around not fun. It grieves me that I know so many people, particularly Christians, who cannot find enough good in themselves to be able to say good things about others. Who take any disagreement with their beliefs as a personal attack, and react defensively. Because obviously that public figure was saying "you suck" when they said "you might want to reconsider how you look at this."
For the record you don't suck. You're God's creation and He doesn't make anything that isn't good, and He loves you. I'll join you in the journey of ingraining that one truth into body, soul and spirit. Well, it's already in the spirit, via the Spirit. But you know what I mean.
"Therefore, there is then no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2.
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2
(For the sake of supporting my above arguments, read all of Romans 8 and 12, Philippians 4, and Matthew 6 and 7 where Jesus talks worrying and the good gifts of a Father. Also consider that the two greatest commandments listed in all the Gospels are Love God and Love others as yourself, and those two encompass the entirety of the Law and the Prophets. And that's just off the top of my head. There are others.)