The Numbing Effect: Positivity

One the biggest mantras today for success and self-preservation is positivity. Think positive, be positive, and do positive things, while having a positive attitude. And don’t get me wrong, I know there are times I allude to that philosophy and worldview, and I do think that positivity and the essence of it is great and definitely has a place in the culture and society today, simply because of all of the negativity that goes on, and to be honest, not many people enjoy actually being around people who are always negative. So, yeah, I get it. But for some time now it’s began to bother me.

The problem that I have witnessed is that when people are so positive, they disassociate from their own emotion it seems. As much as we want it to be, life is not all peaches and cream, smelling of strawberries, and what a lot of people do is they seem to negate that life is tough. And a person like me, it’s hard to open up to a person that is so positive as to where it seems as if nothing is ever wrong and if I try to share, I’ll be hit with a positivity speech. It’s hard to connect with people when the response to the pain of life and struggles is a simple “stay positive,” because either I’ll think they are full of it or I’ll build up a wall because they show no possibility of honesty or wisdom…I’m sorry. I got carried away, so moving on.

Now like I said previously, it definitely has it’s place, but so does negativity. And truth be told, often times negativity is reality, so we wind up in a conundrum when we disregard reality, because often times that means that things are not confronted or dealt with and all we do in turn is create more masks to wear, and things aren’t dealt with. On the flip side, positivity often forgets that things will not always turn out the way we want them, no matter how positive we were or how optimistic we are.

There is a saying that goes “to blessed to be stressed” that was referenced in a sermon I heard as a bad philosophy and that is so true! In theory it sounds nice, but it further pushes a gospel that assumes being a Christian means you will never be stressed out, have a bad day, or have any trying times, that life will be honky dory and if you feel stressed or anything of the liking, you are not doing something right. That is so far from the truth. Yes, the Bible has plenty of scriptures of God’s promises associated with positivity, but there are just as many that remind us of the hardships in life that shouldn’t be overlooked. I mean look at Jesus. There were many times he was stressed, tired, sad, and weary, but his livelihood was rested in that fact he knew who his Father was, and at the same time, he was vulnerable with other people so they could see that it was okay to cry or be angry.

Bottom line, if we aren’t careful and guard our hearts, positivity will numb us to the reality of the world around us and we will miss the opportunities to really minister effectively and or share Christ. It can truly desensitize us to deal with issues mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and even physically, because more times than not, people don’t need positivity, but a sincere raw truth about their situation spoken in love, which means it won’t always tickle their ears, although ear tickling is what many people are getting these days. Furthermore, there are some things, situations, and people that don’t deserve a positive response or there truly is not one that can be given for one reason or another. I mean Scripture points out that the obtaining of peace often comes by way of war, and some times a negative action does require a negative response (through wisdom, discernment, and direction), but I digress, I don’t want to go to deep of the trail here, plus I feel like I am beginning to ramble again.

With all that said, be positive as you strive to be your best self for a purpose, just be careful not to allow positivity to cloud your sight and the dire realities around you, that you become an anesthetic or band-aid, to the problem(s) you were meant to be an answer to.

As Momma Put It

In plenty of self-help and therapy philosophies of the world we are told to love ourselves or to love ourselves more, with the books2assumption that certain people legitimately don’t love themselves. Now in theory, that is good thinking, but Biblically, we never hear that, the idea is that we already love ourselves, and if anything, we are told to love ourselves less. But what about those that treat themselves badly (cutting, drugs, drinking, promiscuity, eating disorders, gambling, i.e.)?? Well when you think about it, technically they love themselves enough to try to find an outlet to feel better or no matter how much of a negative behavior it may be, the world’s philosophy is to do whatever brings you pleasure or whatever it is that makes you happy in order to love yourself. I would say that the problem is not that people don’t love themselves, but they don’t know how to do it or they love themselves way too much. Think about it. When a person cheats on their spouse or abuses them, it’s not uncommon to hear “but I do love you.” Now, in actuality, they may really love them, but they were never taught the right way. Am I excusing it? Absolutely not, but making a point.

Long story short, our definition and idea of love toward self and toward others is backwards and so far from the way God intended. So much in so that we are blinded by happiness from what love is. The problem is that happiness is a state of emotion based on a situation, which would explain why people turn over and over again to vices, because that had only a temporary high. In turn, because people are ignorant of how to love ourselves, we are utterly lost in the ability to appropriately love others. So what’s the answer?

Well, Scripture lays it out pretty clearly. To love appropriately, you must first love Jesus, because he himself is love; it was Jesus that died in our place. Jesus showed love to whoever came his way, and so in loving him by getting to know him, talking with him, spending time with him, and communing with him via his Word, it’s inevitable that you learn to love him. I mean seriously, what’s not to love? And the more we fall in love with him, the more of his love should permeate through us onto others because we will begin to imitate his incredible version of love. Once you’ve met with Jesus, you will never be the same. Once he touches you, it is bound to rub off on someone else. Now, what’s next?

Jesus’ whole ministry was built on love, even loving the least of them. So by following the way of Jesus, we learn to love others, even our enemies and love our loved ones when they are most unlovable. The first of the greatest commandments is to love God, and the second is to love others. Paul in 1 Corinthians gives a whole chapter on what love for one another looks like, and the total of the Mosaic law can be summed up in loving God and loving others. If we are to be disciples, then our love for each other should be our defining trait. It’s a matter of putting others’ needs ahead or considering them more important than your own. It’s easier said than done, but as your love for Jesus increases, so does your ability to sincerely and unconditionally love others.

Looking back at the great commandment, after loving God, you love your neighbor, then after loving your neighbor, you love yourself. Now with many of the commands God gives His people, if you really examine them they are in place to protect us and keep us in good terms. For example, being careful of what you eat, and taking care of your temple, your own body, not participating in sinful acts, or participating in things to get you caught up in bad or compromising situations. If you love yourself, you will consider these things a lot more, because worldly thinking is that following Christ is a matter of all these crazy rules and killjoys, when instead God had our best interest at heart. And if we want to love God back we will love ourselves enough to consider what He says to make us most effective in the life assigned to us. If you don’t believe me, consider all the things He said we shouldn’t do or think and more and more we are falling away, and where has that gotten us? Okay, but so what? I know, I felt myself rambling so I digress and will keep it moving.

To be  you for a purpose, you have to be anchored in love, because anything done without love, no matter how good or noble, is of no value. Therefore, let’s recap, how do we love appropriately? Love Jesus first, then love others, then love yourself. In that order. Jesus, others, yourself. Jesus. Others. You…J.O.Y. Catch my drift yet? The world’s philosophy of love is based on happiness, which is temporary; here one day, gone the next. But, when you follow God’s idea of love, you walk away with an incredible sense of joy, that the world can’t give you, nor can the world take away. My momma taught me that.

Change or Not So Much? Oh! & It’s Okay to be Nice

There is a false belief in the Christian community that I used to believe. “God doesn’t want to change you; He wants to enhance you.” → something to that extent anyway. The more I have grown, the more I have understood this not be true.

Over and over, Scripture tells of God transforming us, our minds, our hearts, and desires. The primary tell of a convert is the change internally and externally, from the way we speak (not only cussing but speaking negatively), how we treat others, how we view ourselves (pride, worthless), how we view [our] sin, how we minister, our desires, our will, how we think, how we react, our emotions, how we walk, how we dress, how we take care of our bodies, what we do to our bodies, even our personality. When Jesus comes into our lives, he is not looking to do a tweek here and there, he desires to do a total remodeling. As CS Lewis and Elisabeth Elliott described, it’s not until we fully surrender and submit to the Lordship of our Creator, that we are able to be who we were meant to be.

Granted, there are definitely [unique] things about us that will guide and give a glimpse as to how the Lord wants to use in fulfilling His purpose for our lives, but God can’t use us in the magnitude He desires until we give Him all of ourselves, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and let Him break us, shake us, mold us, and make us into the individuals He crafted and destined us to be. How can we know what was set in place for us way back in eternity past without consulting with the One who created us in His very image? And the beautiful thing about it, He is so amazingly utterly creative that His purpose is not for us to be all the same or be bland, mundane or robotic; He created us like different snowflakes, no one else past, present, or future is like us, each with our own beauty and uniqueness.

The more we get to know Him, the more we get to know ourselves. As we are ourselves for a purpose, the more able we are to fulfill the awesome purpose He has for us, the more the world will yearn for the God in us, and the more satisfied we will be.

One side note: I hear a lot of people say, “I’m going to stop being nice to everyone. People are taking my kindness for a weakness,” or some similar wording to the same thinking. For starters to be honest, and this is something I had to learn, that is being selfish. As the Holy Spirit truly leads us, we should give without pause, and giving by no means is a sign of weakness. Of course wisdom and discernment are important as well. And if I dare say, those people that are “taking advantage,” in many cases are not the people we need to associate ourselves with, but we settle and for one reason or another keep people in our lives that God has tried to remove. We many times put ourselves in undesirable situations, because God’s intent is not to hurt us, make us look stupid or foolish. Accordingly, this is another part of the change the Lord seeks to do, burning bridges with those that have no help and or hinder us in fulfilling our purpose.

Kindness and gentleness is a fruit of the spirit, generosity is a gift, and meekness is associated with being blessed and or happy. Loving despite the opposition and the lack of reciprocation, shows strength, humility, and courage. Jesus was the epitome of them all, and look where he ended up, on a cross. So why should we think just because we are nice to even the most demanding people, people will always respond favorably? On the other hand, to stop being “nice” because of what another person does to you, shows the power someone has over you. Furthermore, we will be held accountable for what we do, not for what others do to us, no matter what it is they say or do.

To be you for a purpose is taking responsibility for your own actions and words, not putting the blame on others. This in turn actually frees us from the bondage of bitterness, anger, depression, and hatred, because we have control over how we choose to respond, without basing it on what others do.

Be you for a purpose, which may mean a change, remembering that it’s okay to be nice, I promise.