I’ve been thinking a lot about negativity recently. I think a lot of people kind of like to be negative. I started to really think about this the other week when I posted a Facebook status (on my personal page) about something that was frustrating me – I don’t usually do this. The responses I received (several) argued with me or said what I considered rather rude statements, like “Welcome to parenthood, deal with it.”
A couple days later I did an experiment, and posted a new status that was about staying positive even in the face of tough circumstances, because we can’t control what happens around us…but we can control our attitude and how we react to things. I’d had a rough day with my kids but had decided instead of being upset they’d been disobedient and refused to nap, I’d roll with it and enjoy them. I wanted to see how many people would comment or “like” this positive status. No one commented. A few people “liked” it, but they were people I’d consider generally positive.
Think about this situation. You meet someone in some random location – the person behind you in the grocery store, another mom at a playground. What are you likely to talk about? In my experience – how poor the weather is, how difficult your kids can be, how annoyed you are about having to wait so long in line, etc. What would happen if you said to the person, “I’m having a great day! I don’t mind waiting in line! My kids are awesome little people!” I think that it would be taken as annoying, rude, and bragging…right? We are expected to commiserate, not celebrate, with people we don’t know.
When do people ask for prayers in church? Despite what our pastors encourage, the vast majority of people ask for prayers when they are having a difficult time. They don’t ask for prayers when something amazing has happened and they’d like to praise the Lord for providing! Why shouldn’t we gather together to praise the Lord just as we gather together to ask for His help? Because it’s bragging. And we imperfect humans can’t quite seem to take it, even when we do give glory to the Lord for fortunate circumstances.
Why is this? Why do we need to be negative? Why do we need to contradict others? Why do we need to argue? Why do we need to complain all the time?
Right now I’m dealing with circumstances most would consider difficult – raising three very small children (including a newborn), preserving food for my family, and keeping up with a blog. I could choose to be angry and frustrated whenever the kids don’t nap or when they misbehave or make messes; I could be upset that I don’t accomplish my entire to-do list everyday. I could wish they’d just grow up a little more or they’d leave me alone. I could end everyday unhappy.
Or, I could choose to realize this is a very short time in my life, and my children are generally awesome little people who go through normal developmental phases that may, at times, annoy or appall me. They have bad days. They come up with some pretty creative games that may make messes or break things (my daughter, bored in the car, took off her shoes and made up a game with them talking to each other and fighting). They may wrestle and scream and hurt each other. Okay, they do all those things. But I can get angry about it, or I can marvel at their creativity and uniqueness. I choose to do the latter, at least most of the time!
If my friends say things I don’t agree with or seem unusually upset or frustrated by a current circumstance, I can speak gently and encourage them, or I can get upset and tell them they’re wrong or “just deal with it.” I choose the former.
We just don’t need to be negative! We can try our best to be patient, to remain positive, to look at the good parts of a situation instead of the bad. If we’re holding a screaming child, we can think about how hard this must be for the child and snuggle, bounce, nurse, and do whatever it takes to help. (And de-stress later with a cup of tea and adult conversation, if needed!)
There’s nothing wrong with feeling frustrated and saying so. There’s nothing wrong with needing that cup or tea or a hug. We all have bad days, where we do feel a bit more negative. But if we try our best to remain positive most of the time, then we know these days are rare and will pass soon, as we’ll have plenty of appropriate strategies to help feel better. If we scream at our children we can ask their forgiveness and move on.
Negativity breeds more negativity…because misery does love company. When someone’s unhappy they want to bring others down. (I think there’s a biochemical aspect to this – low-fat diets lead to low levels of serotonin and high levels of cortisol and people aren’t very able to cope with stress, and are more likely to be angry and depressed. But this is pretty easily fixed by consuming more healthy fats!) Why would we want to spread misery, though? Why would we want to make others sad and angry? Is that going to solve our problem?
Instead, we need to make sure our own attitudes are positive. Simply smiling at someone can brighten their day. When our kids act up in public and we speak to them gently and remain calm, we are a positive example to those around us. When someone does share their unhappiness with us and we choose to give them a positive comment or pray with them, we can remove some of their burden. When someone shares a praise with us and we rejoice with them instead of saying (or even thinking), “Gee, how nice for you,” we make them feel amazing.
Let’s make a vow to make the world a more positive, encouraging place by being that way ourselves. Even a few positive people can take the negative away.
Positive Challenge — Spreading Joy
I’m starting a new challenge in October — will you join me? Each day, I vow to look for at least one thing to be happy about, no matter what that day has brought (even through stress and frustration I will find a reason to be happy! Because we all have those days sometimes).
Once a week, on Fridays, I will list all my reasons to be happy. I want to inspire joy and a positive outlook for everyone. I also vow (and hope you will too) to say everything nice that pops into my head. If I think someone’s hair looks especially nice or they just said something that inspired me, I will tell them. Sharing happy thoughts is another way to spread joy!
If you’re a blogger I will put up a linky on those days so you can share your own posts on what you chose to be happy about and how you are spreading joy!