I have been thinking a lot about attitude lately. In general, how does one cultivate a good attitude especially when one has a tendency towards a poor one? As with so much in life- once we are thinking and spending time pondering an idea, we hear all sorts of advice on the subject.
Recently I was part of a women’s retreat. It was a time full of faith and fellowship. There was much authentic sharing during the weekend. I was amazed at how quickly, humbly and willingly women were in sharing their hurts and sorrows.
While I am amazed at the depth of courage and strength these women shared, I couldn’t help wondering, what is wrong with me? For whatever reason, I feel that I am not in a place of deep sorrow or hurt. In fact, life is pretty good. I felt almost a pressure to say my life was terrible when it really isn’t. I am always cognizant of the pain and sorrows of others and generally do not share all the good going on in my life because I don’t want it to seem like a competition or a “in your face,” etc. However, by not sharing my story in my “abundance” I am not being truly authentic with others, and by my unspoken words, have made it a competition.
That is wrong of me. It keeps me separated from others and is not the community into which God has called us .
I realized that we do need to share with one another ALL the things going on in our lives. The good, the bad and the ugly (equal emphasis on all, not just the bad and ugly). For focusing on all aspects of life, helps keep things in perspective. When I am going through difficulty and I hear someone share about the good things in life, I can see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Although I must admit that in my immature moments, I can be a little jealous of the shared good times. However, many times the stories involving good times have difficulty woven in. When I hear the total picture, I can learn to be grateful for others’ stories and not focus solely on myself. Conversely, when I hear that someone is having a tough time, I can reflect and be grateful for what I am experiencing and also (if it seems like an appropriate time) be able to share my perspective.
God is good and He wants to give good things to His children. Sometimes we do not recognize His gifts as good but when we gain eternal perspective, it is all good. Hearing all sides of life- good, bad and the ugly helps me gain that eternal perspective.
I also think the tendency to negativity is another way that the father of lies tries to chip away at our soul and keep us separated. It is all part of the “not good enough, nothing will ever work out, hopeless state” he wants to keep us in. The Father of Light tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, there is a future and plan for each one of us and that through Christ there is hope in an eternal tomorrow.
And so as I have been thinking about optimism, I have come across these ideas:
No-Complaint Day. One practical way to stay optimistic is to practice a set amount of time with no complaints. Typically starting for one day and continuing each day without complaints for about a month. However, if you are a complaining type person (yours truly somedays), you might want to set the bar low at first (1 hour or half a day). But if you can, try and go a whole day without complaints.
Glad Game. If you are the type which complaining rolls off your tongue and even one hour of no-complaints gives you pause, you might have to institute the “glad game” while you are resetting your thoughts. The glad game comes from the old Pollyanna books/movies. Pollyanna, the main character would play the glad game whenever she felt sad or disappointed. Instead of saying the such and such happened she would say, “I am glad such and such happened because… (and reframe the negative to a positive). Kind of corny but as a person thinketh, so he/she doeth. If we start thinking positive thoughts, we are more likely to remain positive.
Smile more. If you do not think that smiling matters, try it for a day. When you are out and about, or even among your family and friends, try smiling at people. Again, if this is not your nature, those who know you might wonder if you have lost a few marbles. But, most people respond by smiling back. It creates an atmosphere of joy and encouragement.
Repeat positive affirmations: Some people have a daily mantra of positive thoughts. I prefer to remember the truths that God has said: I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am his cherished child, He has a plan and purpose for my life. Find scripture that has meaning for you and say it in the morning and throughout the day. Especially when the father of lies gets into your head to tell you otherwise.
Each day when you wake, choose to be optimistic that day. Some days may be quite easy to remain positive: the sun is shining, you get a good night’s sleep, you feel reasonably well, there were no “crisis phone calls” in the middle of the night and your hair isn’t frizzing. The real test will be when the days are dark, damp and miserable and your soul feels the same way.
What about you? Are you naturally optimistic or pessimistic? Do you naturally complain? (Or as I like to justify my complaining, “just stating facts…”) Are you going through a really tough time? Is there someone you know who might have gone through something similar and is now in a different place? Could you reach out to him or her? How do you re-frame your thoughts?
“Lord, I choose this day to be positive for you- to relinquish all control, all fears, all doubts, all worries to you. Come into my heart, soul and mind and transform my negative thoughts and actions to positive ones. I rejoice that you will always be near me, that you are before and behind me and that you guide my steps. Amen.”