I’ll never forget one of my first days at Navy boot camp in February 1985 when my chief (called CC) got in my face and at the top of his lungs yelled, “Horner, you better change your attitude!!!!!” Calmly I looked at this saint of a man and said: “did the Navy issue the proper attitude and does it look dungaree?” This, of course, led to a long talk about being “set back” and never graduating from boot camp and being in a permanent boot camp hell and of course, marching party (which may be the worse party I’ve ever attended) that night when everybody else got to go to bed. I eventually “found” the right attitude that the Navy required in order for me to graduate boot camp and move on to my specialty school and it was a good opportunity for me to begin looking at my attitude.
Many people don’t understand the word attitude but it means, “a settled way of thinking or feeling, typically reflected in a person’s behavior”. Even God has a thing or two to say about our attitudes. Ephesians 4:22–23, “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” Philippians 2:5, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” 1 Peter 4:1, “So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer too.” And perhaps Hebrews 4:12 gets to the root of attitude without actually using the word, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
We All Have An Attitude
We all have an attitude, whether that attitude is negative or positive, fearful or assured, sarcastic or calming and we all tend to go back and forth in our attitude. Now this may be shocking but in most pages like this, here is where the author begins to instruct you that you need to have a positive attitude, but I don’t think that way. I just want you to identify with your attitude. After all, it isn’t as if you are suddenly going to take a negative attitude, David Copperfield it, and suddenly with an abra kadabra, alla shazam, you’re going to turn into this positive attitude beast, setting the world on fire and firing off “make it a great days” to everybody you meet as if you can make a totally crummy day “GREAT”. No, what you first need to do is to seriously look at your life and determine what your attitude is and then look at the effect your attitude has on those around you.
Typically, people tend to view me as a positive attitude and outlook person, but deep inside me I know that I can view any day as a crummy day and have that outlook also. As a sales professional, I don’t get to enjoy that outlook very much though as I am constantly either in a meeting with a person, on the phone with the person or emailing a person and every single one of the people I am in contact with are in one way or another going to affect the sale of my product. So I have to portray to these people confidence in myself, in my product and in that person to be able to make a decision. I remember that I didn’t always think this way. In the beginning I used to ask “I wouldn’t suppose you would want to buy something like this, would you?” Or an equally as lame line that brought with it totally negative connotations. And here is where you are going to think that somehow magically I changed my attitude and my sales went through the roof. No, I went the other direction first.
What’s Your Mask Look Like?
What I did was paint on this mask that I could slip in and out of. When I was around people that could affect the sales process I put on my “happy” mask. This mask had the effect of showing people I was this happy, vivacious person. It wasn’t me though because inside I was this sarcastic, mean-spirited person who would just as likely bite your head off as try and sell you something. My sales improved somewhat but I was still miserable inside. I kept trying to keep straight which mask I had on and designed quite a few other masks also. I had a “spiritual” mask, that was the one where I could quote Bible verses and fake you out that I really cared about God when what I really cared about was getting ahead in life. There was the “serious” mask and this one nobody really saw through but I would try and be a really serious, adult. There were lots of other masks and I was putting them on and taking them off so much I didn’t even know who I was anymore. And every single one of those masks had something to do with attitude. I was trying to change my attitude so much I didn’t even know what attitude I was supposed to have.
And then one Sunday morning my life was totally transformed by one statement a friend made in church. Our church had recently had a pastor change and the new pastor was this positive attitude, Amway motivational speaker who did everything but pull out the soap in the middle of the sermon. You know the kind. Well I was sitting there trying to gin up my positive mental attitude mask so I could groove with the sermon and maybe even score some points with the pastor since under the old pastor I was some kind of up and coming “leader” and suddenly a good friend leans over to me during the sermon and shows me a Bible passage that I had never even considered before. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17–18)
Putting on Joy
Those words on that page were literally my salvation because they set me free from all my striving to move ahead, set me free from trying to magically change my attitude to be one that people wanted to be around and be my friend, and set me on a path where the most important thing in my life was not being liked and accepted, but being joyful. Not being joyful for some great purpose or higher reason or position in life, but to be joyful just because my Savior is my strength, the One who makes my feet like the feet of a deer, enabling me to go on the heights. It wasn’t magic that set me free, it was joy, inexpressible joy that led to something deep inside of me that came to say that I was settled in my way of thinking and feeling and everything about my outer self was merely going to be a reflection of my inner self.
Through one passage of the Bible which I am sure many people don’t look at and go “now there’s a powerful passage full of positive pushing through to God’s purpose” or some other junk like that. I doubt many pastors will even venture there to preach a sermon on that passage because only the last line is usually used and it is usually used to move us on to another point. But Habakkuk to me (beyond one of the strangest names in the Bible) helped me figure something very key to life out. Habakkuk figured out that faith has nothing to do with circumstances. Faith (and thus our attitude) has everything to do with God’s faithfulness to you and even if we should suffer (like in 1 Peter) and even if we are seemingly losing in life, we can still rejoice in a Savior God. Even when our best efforts look like a losing effort, there is still God and that is reason enough to celebrate and be joyful. And the key to this whole thing is that you’re not putting on your joyful mask in hopes that there will be a turn around, you are just putting on the joy (not the mask) because you know that God is still on the throne and that He is in control and no matter what happens to you and around you, you will be joyful just because you have a Savior God.
Amazing things happen when you put on joy in the morning, the afternoon and the evening. And I’m not going to tell you that everything is going to change and your political leader will suddenly change, that your boss will turn out to be this great person, that your financial hard times are going to end or that you suddenly will turn into a sales or writing giant. That would be magic and magic doesn’t happen. I will promise you one thing though if you begin to put on joy at all times. I will promise you that you will be filled with joy inexpressible and it won’t matter what’s going on around you. It took me a lot of years to do what my CC first yelled at me to do, to change my attitude but it was a good journey because what I found in the end wasn’t another mask to try and keep straight but something far deeper and more lasting. I found joy in the morning, joy in the afternoon and joy well into the evening. I found a joy that doesn’t come bubbling up in constant streams of laughter but in an inner part of me that expresses itself in confidence that the great turn around will happen, I found joy that speaks to a lasting friendship with God and with the friends He places around me. I found a joy that expresses itself in a lot of confidence in who I am and who God is making me to be. I’m still not that sales giant or financial success but every day I enter joy and though the fig trees do not blossom all the time and though the olive crop fails some of the time and though the grapes aren’t always on the vine and the fields sometimes lie barren, though my sheep are running around being chased by coyotes sometimes and though my cattle are not only not in the stall but they all got rustled by the neighboring rancher, I will rejoice in my Savior God and I will praise His name and He will strengthen me to get back in the fight and to march to the high places.
And I can promise you that if you look for joy, you will find the same.