2008-06-06 - Negativism
Originally Published 1999-11-03
Proverbs 15:15 (TLB) When a man is gloomy, everything seems to go wrong; when he is cheerful, everything seems right!
"It won't work. We have never done it that way. We tried it before and it failed. You are just asking for trouble. Go ahead if you want, but I am telling you it is a bad idea. Why do you try so hard? It will never pay off. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. That is not the way things work around here. You will never amount to much." Sound familiar? It is the sound of negative people. They can be everywhere in your life, at home, work, school, church or recreation. Why are people negative in the first place? My own opinion is that some people simply enjoy being miserable. Others have a fear of success. This fear of success is saying to them, "if this idea works, then I will be in unfamiliar territory." They want to remain as they are. I also believe they use a negative attitude to maintain control of their environment.
Our verse today implies negative attitudes are self-fulfilling prophecies. They can also be contagious. If you have a negative attitude, it will not only keep you down; it will also bring down people around you. Think negatively and the world around you seems negative. I call negative people drainers, because they drain the life out of me. The second part of the verse tells us that a positive, cheerful and Christlike attitude will make everything seem right. We all walk around with two imaginary buckets. One is filled with fuel, the other with water. We have a choice when we are ambushed by a negative conversation. We can either throw our bucket of fuel on it, igniting the negativism, or we can douse it with our water bucket. Of course, you may simply ignore the person, but ignoring the attitude will not make it go away. I have found over the years that it just frustrates the negative person and causes them to be more and more negative. So what has worked for me?
First and foremost is prayer. Praying for the negative person gives you a new attitude toward him. I often will pray, "Lord, help me see this person through Your eyes. Give me the wisdom, courage and discernment to interact with him in a Christlike manner." The prayer is saying, "change me," not "change him."
Most negative people do not realize how negative their demeanors have become. But simply saying, "Gee Joe, you are so negative. You drain the life out of me", is not going to work. That will only throw the bucket of fuel on the situation. When a negative attitude is displayed, try to take what is said, and make a positive statement back to the person. Watch these examples. Negative person says, "That customer is such a pain. He drives me crazy with his demands." You could answer, "Yes he is very demanding, but that is why we have our jobs, to satisfy customers' demands." The negative person says, "This is not how we have always done this." A good response: "Glad you noticed we are making changes around here to improve our services."
A complaint is, "Those people never work; they are lazy." You could respond: "You know, those people are people just like us. I have found them to be very industrious." A fellow church member says, "I hate the sermon series the pastor is doing; I can not relate to it." You could say, "Funny you should say that; I have found it to be very uplifting for me. Perhaps the next series will be for you."
One encounter like this will not change a negative person's attitude overnight. It takes time and patience, but after a while, it will click in his mind, "hmm, no use in complaining around him." Ideally, he will start coming to you thinking, "help me see the good in this." Do you want to throw your bucket of fuel on the fire, or your bucket of water? I pray this will help you reach for the water bucket.
Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NLT) So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people to do in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them.
Father, forgive us when we become bitter and negative. Forgive us for throwing fuel on fires that we could help put out. Forgive us for being insensitive to others around us. Give us Your wisdom, strength and courage to be more like Christ everyday. In His name, Amen.