I have a confession.
I am a pessimist.
I am a pessimist with anxiety issues.
I am not just the glass is half empty but I am the glass is half empty and there is a water shortage and what if we run out of clean water and then we will all have to start carrying water from streams and running it through homemade filtration systems made from panty hose and water bottles.
Oh, you already knew that? Glad we sorted that out. I have to make a conscious decision every day (and sometimes several times a day!) to look for the best in all situations. There are several ways I have learned to deal with negativity. I have recently been reading in Galatians 6
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (ESV)
1. Be Bold
Verse one encourages Christians to “restore him a spirit of gentleness” anyone who is caught in sin. Keyword here being gentleness! And let’s not forget the second part of that verse – KEEP WATCH ON YOURSELF, LEST YOU TOO BE TEMPTED. Gossip and negativity go hand in hand and it is so easy to get caught up in it. It starts out as one small question like, “I wonder where so and so has been?”. This question may start out as innocent but you or someone else might answer, “Well I heard they were doing this or that with so and so”.
This is your chance to BE BOLD. You have several choices here, you can engage in the conversation about so and so which usually spirals downward into a mindless dribble of all the gossip you have heard about your mutual friends until no one has anything nice left to say OR you can stop it.
Let me tell you, I am guilty as the next southern belle for having a love affair with gossip. My name is Elizabeth and I like to gossip but lately I have felt convicted about it. When someone slides up close to you to tell you something that is none of your business, I want you to flip open to Galatians and say, “wait just a minute! I have to keep watch on myself or I am going to be tempted to participate in this slander” and if it is me scooting up next to you, can you restore me with gentleness?
Next time someone is being negative around you, be bold and ask them why, there might be something else going on they might need to talk about with you. They might just need to be gently restored to the spirit with some scripture, kind words, or advice (or all three!).
2. Find your Barnabas
We first meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36 “Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement).” (ESV).
Barnabas was a nickname the apostles gave him because of his witness, he served the church well as an encourager to Christians, the apostles, and especially Paul. I am sure you at least know a Barnabas in your life, seek them out when negativity is in creeping up in you. It is hard to be negative around someone who is always encouraging.
I once worked for a company that was very good at what they did but the work environment was terrible. I don’t know if it was stress or clashing personalities but almost everyone was always spewing negativity whether in their actions by taking the defense or in their words through complaining. As soon as I left that job, it was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I found myself being Positive Polly and not Negative Nancy and it felt AWESOME. After leaving, I found myself drawn to positive much more because I knew what it felt like to have the negativity lifted from you and I never wanted to go back there again!
3. Choose your Friends
I know this sounds simple but who you hang out with will influence how you act, speak, and engage with the world. I have learned I have to distance myself from some people because their negativity brings me down. I am not saying I don’t want to bear my friends burdens and listen to their problems but there has to be some give and take in a relationship.
4. Bear One Another’s Burdens
It is not all sunshine and unicorns. Life is messy. I have a good group of a few friends I know I can reach out to if I need to get something off my chest, get some encouragement, and be told to move on. Many times my friends help me carry my burdens to the cross and leave them there for Jesus through prayer.
5. Fess Up
If you find yourself wearing the name tag “Hello, My Name is Negative Nancy or Gossiping Glinda”. Take it off and apologize. Not only are we supposed to ask forgiveness for our sins from the Father, but from each other as well. I do not want to cause someone else to stumble. I found myself in this situation a few weeks ago where someone was being hateful to someone else in my presence and instead of addressing the situation, I found myself gossiping about them to two other people. I had to go and ask those people for forgiveness, I was caught in my transgression and I could have caused those people to stumble but instead they redirected it and encouraged me to pray for that person.
How do you keep negativity from influencing your life?