Attitude Adjustments

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:

A mosaic made during the women’s retreat to demonstrate how our brokenness is used by God to create something unexpected and beautiful.

A mosaic made during the women’s retreat to demonstrate how our brokenness is used by God to create something unexpected and beautiful.

  • 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.”

Green Lights

There is a road by my town that, rumor has it, if you traverse the speed limit- 30 mph- you will get all the green lights.  In addition, if you travel any multiple of 30, you also will get the green lights; e.g. 60 mph, 90 mph.  The theory supposedly was tested out by a gentleman I once knew. It was he that told me about it.  Of course, one might get green lights with faster speeds, but one will most assuredly get a speeding ticket.  

I was thinking about green lights the other day because on the commute to my father's house, there are a lot of traffic lights.  As is always the case, when I am running late I seem to get every red light.  Only once have I gotten six green lights in a row, which then had me watching my speed. The passage through of green lights did seem to occur when I was maintaining the speed limit.  Perhaps my long ago friend was right.  His theory applied not just to that one street but at least to the one on which I was traveling. 

There is some connection between green and red lights with good and bad occurrences.   It seems as if red lights are connoted with negativity.  "I got ALL the red lights on my way here," we whine.  It is as if the universe is conspiring against us and the proof is through the traffic light.  And, it seems as if there are more red lights, more opportunities to have to sit and wait than not.  We have come to expect that at every traffic light intersection, we will be delayed at the light. 

Even when we get a green light, we are surprised.  "Clean living paying off," my husband will tease if we come upon that elusive green light.  Why do we respond that way?  Shouldn't we expect green lights all the time?  Shouldn't it be equal- the amount of green to red lights? 

I wonder if we should change our expectations?  From now on, we should expect the green lights on our travels.  We could plan our time for red light (no rushing or going over the speed limit) but hope and expect smooth sailing.  If it is true with the lights that going the suggested speed gives one through and thorough access, I wonder if there is any application to our own life?   Should we be paying attention to how we do things, doing it the "proper" way to eliminate some problems in our life?  I think of the adage everything in its place.  Certainly when I am organized in my home I do have more time to do things because I am not bogged down with finding the right tool or item. For example, when I am organized with the placement of car keys (few and far between I must confess) then I am not wasting time trying to find the bloomin' keys. 

And in our change of expectations, I wonder if we should redefine the burden of the red light? If for some reason we do get a red light, we should not look at it as a bother but be grateful for the stoppage time.  We can view that time for preparation for the next thing that we have to do for home, work, or family. We can pray for the people that we see passing us in cars.   We can think about what we have to say at the business meeting, the company email or the plan for the household project. We can take a deep breath and view the world around us.

What about you?  Have you ever noticed the red and green lights and the percentage of each you get at intersections?  Do you see it as a positive and negative or just how it is?  Do you find that if you are doing the proper thing (e.g. going the speed limit), things work out (e.g. get a green light)?  Or does it matter- you will always get a red light?  What kind of attitude do you portray when you get a "green" light in life?  When you get "red lights"? 

In 2017  I will try to expect only green lights- for me, my family, my friends and loved ones.  I like the positivity of that.