We’re told to always be positive. We’re to take it so far that we should never say anything negative. Some not only say it’s the right thing to do, but also the Christian thing to do. But we must ask: is that true?
If your options are: 1) be joyful and look for the positive, or 2) be grumpy and find the bad in every good, then your choice is clear. No one likes the person who sees the dark cloud beyond every rainbow, or the person who finds pain in every pleasure, or the person compelled to never suffer alone yet who seems to always suffers much. Still, does that mean nothing negative should ever be thought or said? Is there a better point of balance on this subject?
An article entitled “The Harm of Swarm” by Christine Rosen got me thinking. She was writing about “smarm.” That word (either as a noun or a verb) has to do with “behaving in an ingratiating way in order to gain favor.” Swarm was never a familiar word to me as in my childhood we preferred the phrase “laying it on thick.” Still, we’ve all seen it. Likely, some salesperson we’ve met along the way first comes to mind.
In our day it extends far beyond sales. Some websites have said only positive things can be shared, and even some review sites now only accept positive reviews. Social media naturally lends itself to this approach too. I’m glad my wife only shares on Facebook some nice thing I’ve done instead of those days she is convinced I’m a moron who needs to take a long walk off a short plank. Of course, no good could ever come from hurting those we love and live in close proximity to and a positive Facebook presence makes complete sense.
You might be surprised at the research the article I referenced shared about people reading their Facebook news feed. Studies have shown that many people are discouraged or even depressed by reading their mostly positive Facebook news feed ( they may even “hide” the few negative friends on their list). Why does that flow of positive not have a positive emotional impact on many people?
Because it’s not real! (I believe you could enjoy Facebook if you kept your head on straight here). You see all those perfect pictures and posts, those lovely couple posts, or those awesome children pictures, and you compare that to your own imperfect life and somehow you feel worse.
That article goes on to show how it corrupts us politically and filters through society, but I was thinking of how it affects our Christian lives.
We are fragile people for sure. Too much negativity aimed straight at us will soon put us over the edge. I know that I won’t find you helpful or caring no matter your intentions if you bombard me with all that’s wrong with me. I assume I’m not too unique in that regard. On the other hand, even the Bible suggests that their are times for “the wounds of a friend.” Thoughtful prayer, careful word choices, and checked motives are essential to pull this off for good. Many of us well understand the balance in this instance.
The danger of allowing yourself only to live in a world of positive spin, however, is that you more and more leave reality. Then those efforts to rid yourself of unpleasant fear backfires because there is nothing quite as scary as the unknown. It’s just in this case that it’s an unknown of your own creation.
For example, we have had much horrible news in regards to the morals of our land recently and any thinking Christian knows what that means before the Lord. Some even limit what they allow themselves to hear about it because the prospect of persecution or God’s judgment is just too horrifying to contemplate. But is that the best way to manage the fear?
Think of these two options and decide which is really best: 1) Don’t read articles or watch stories of these latest cultural disasters at all to avoid thinking about it–it’s bad, you know, so I don’t want to think about it, or 2) gather information of what happened including the long-term spiritual ramifications and then from the perspective of reality (not excessive pessimism but true present realities) seek out the positive realities–God still reigns and Christianity often thrives in horrid times– and form a spiritual plan for yourself and your loved ones. Is this question not the ultimate no-brainer for a Christian?
This is not to deny that there might be an occasional day that I don’t need to think about the bad news. Maybe I just need to listen to birds sing and watch the children play for a day or two to bring the necessary balance back to my heart and mind. That approach, though, does not have me hiding in non-reality to fix a fear that will only grow in an environment of an unreal world. Truth is always your best choice.
Again, we are not talking about the negative person who spins events until there’s a goblin behind every bush and a conspiracy in every news item. We are talking about an honest look. We are talking about being real. You not only need to be a real person, but you need to face a real world. Perhaps our timing isn’t great in our country as we are clearly at that unpleasant moment of our history that is a jolt downward.
Still, this honest look will not hurt me. It will prepare me. The cost of carelessness with my Lord just got much greater. With that knowledge I can find the comfort that His grace is always the superior of the darkest times. And that is far better comfort than the cult of always being positive.
4 thoughts on “The Truth About Being Always Positive”
Life is harsh. It is how we deal with a harsh life that is important. I live in a difficult marriage. I’ve been married 33 hard years. I’ve had some happy times, but also very hard times. My husband struggles with depression, anxiety, and OCD. He sometimes goes through long periods of time in this mess. At this time, he seems to be okay. He refuses medicine. He does not acknowledge a problem. I have hobbies and interests, volunteer in the church and BSF. I volunteer in the community. I stay busy and have a strong network of family and friends. I pray off and on all day. It is a struggle, but God gives me the strength to cope. Often in devotionals or snippets of dialogue on Facebook, well meaning Christian leaders come across to me as unrealistic. They present marriage as a moonlight and roses sort of thing, or just read the Bible and get plugged into church, or pray and God will bless the marriage in a wonderful and beautiful way. Life and people are complicated. Both my husband and I are very active in church, including leadership positions. However, my husband still has a mental health issue, and I have the issue of living with him. Through all of this I depend on the Lord. Faith and trust in Him has been tantamount, developing, and continues to chisel in my life on this earth. I struggle with showing the fruits of the spirit, yet God gives me the strength to display them. I struggle with loneliness, yet God ministers to me through His Spirit and Word. I struggle with having a leader in the home, yet God is my leader and rock. I struggle with “what ifs”, yet God tells me to trust in Him and don’t try and figure it all out. Even though a hard thing is going on, God is blessing me. He is also developing in me the kind of person He wants me to be, and this is a work in progress.
Thank you for a timely article.
And thank you for such a honest perspective. It’s true that positive spin can make for some glib answers in the bigger problems of life.
I just finished Dane Ortlunds book on Jonathan Edward’s theology (it’s based on God’s beauty), and Edward’s teaching on joy was a quietly happy, often serious, frequently penitent, always reverent, depth of spirit. He taught that effervescence was an indicator of a shallow version of joy. It’s only one, greatly respected, man’s perspective on joy, but it made me reconsider what joy looks like; it’s not necessarily “positivity.”
Sounds like a great book.￼