I’ve had several conversations with people lately, including the one that goes on inside my head most of the day, and the theme goes something like this: “I’m a positive person. I want to be a positive person. I love life. I love people. But I seem to be surrounded by negative people all the time and I feel like they keep dragging me down.” (I’m not making this up. These are exact quotes.) In short: How can I be a positive person in a negative world?
Here are a few thoughts that work for me . . .
I sometimes have to Take a Breath and recognize that I’m not in control of every situation and that the only person I can change is myself. That’s a good beginning point, albeit a difficult one to acknowledge.
I then have to tell myself in one way or another — I need to rise above it. I need to focus on what I can do. I need to be grateful for the flakes of goodness and love and joy that float down from the sky upon my life.
I try to learn from the negative. There’s a fine line here, because clearly people shouldn’t carry the unreasonable toxic baggage of other people. At the same time, sometimes negative circumstances can teach us something important about ourselves.
I also have to remind myself that I’m better than the negativity I’m encountering, and while I cannot control the attitude of someone at work or the behavior of someone in my family or the diagnosis by the doctor, I can rise above it, take the high road and trust that God will bless my effort of self definition.
Every now and then, I’ve had to decide that a particular person or set of circumstances is not good for me. I can’t fix it. I can’t repair it. And for the good of my own soul, I have to withdraw and find other people with whom to associate. Everyone is entitled if not obligated to say: “I cannot keep doing this to my soul.”
Sometimes I try to re-imagine the negativity that’s around me. That is to say, the terrible critic at work or the toxic personality at school, I begin to see the person differently. I imagine the person as a child. A ten year old. Broken. Frightened. Unloved. And when I see through the negative person, not looking at but seeing through, my compassion and patience begin to rise.
And now for a deep dose of honesty — I don’t put pressure on myself to be positive all the time. I like to be positive. I like for light to shine in me and through me. But sometimes my soul needs a dark, brooding day every once in a while, and rather than fighting it or correcting or Christianizing it, I just let it be. I give myself to it and try to do no harm to anyone around me.
Take a Breath today. Staying positive in a negative world is not easy. But it can be done. (At least most days it can be done.) And it’s worth the effort.