A Positive Perspective Can Change the Way We Live
Remember when life was easier?
I’ve asked that question before and maybe you have, too.
But was it really ever easier?
Last week my grandson said something profound — more profound than he realized. Sometimes the seemingly ordinary can be extraordinary and this conversation was one of those times.
There is something special about those car rides to and from school that warms a grandma’s heart. I’m thinking it’s the captive audience part.
I picked up my grandson from school last Tuesday and as always, I tried thinking of a new way to ask him about his day. I asked what the most interesting part of his day was — besides lunch. He had trouble coming up with an answer, so I changed it up a bit and asked how he liked his new school so far (his first year of middle school, aka junior high as this baby-boomer refers to it as).
He liked elementary school better.
Surprised and a tad concerned by his answer, I asked why and if any of the other kids were giving him trouble or was there a problem with a teacher?
“No. Elementary school was just easier.”
I agreed but told him while it probably seems like it was easier then when he was actually in elementary school he would have probably said preschool was just easier.
Life is relative to our growth. Life is relative to where we are and what we’ve learned thus far. Sometimes we just need someone to point out the positive of how far we’ve come.
I went on to say that soon he would be in high school and would look back and appreciate that middle school was just easier — and as an adult, working and paying bills, he’ll probably look back and think, high school was just easier…
It was a deep conversation for something that began with I can’t think of anything interesting that happened in school today. The conversation happened all in the course of about a 15-minute ride.
Avoid Succumbing to a Negative Perspective
There are days when our older self feels like throwing in the towel — staying in bed with the covers over our head. Maybe we dream too much of what we hoped would be, or maybe we dream too much of what used to be. Maybe we look back to a time when we thought life was easier.
Except it wasn’t easier. In other words, what we thought about the now back then and what we think about the back then now, has changed.
Challenges we face today probably won’t seem as hard a few years down the road as they do right now. When we’re smack in the middle of tests and trials, what screams loudest is the negative and we barely notice the positive right there next to it. We can’t see the positive clearly because struggles blur our eyes.
There’s a reason for this and it has a name — negativity bias.
“The capacity to emphasize the negative rather than the positive has probably been an evolutionary phenomenon…
Paul Rozin and Edward Royzman showed in their research that the negative perspective is more contagious than the positive perspective.” — Ray Williams from his article “Are We Hardwired to Be Positive or Negative?” Psychologytoday.com
This partially explains why often times we allow the negative to overshadow the positive in our lives — even when the positives remain constant while the negatives continually change. It seems we subconsciously find new things to worry about when we don’t even realize we’re looking for them.
For example, I wonder if you’ve ever experienced these scenarios:
- While on a wonderful vacation you focus on how it will soon be over and you’ll be back to the daily grind. We ruin the current experience by dreading what lies ahead.
- During what is meant to be a joyful celebration, you keep worrying about how you look, what people are thinking, what you should say, what you shouldn’t say, or if you chose the right gift. Boom, the party is over and you missed the fun.
- On an exceptionally grand day or even just a beautifully ordinary day, your mind can’t help but wonder when the other shoe will drop. That’s a rather interesting phrase, isn’t it? Basically, you can’t enjoy yourself because you know highs can’t last forever and you anticipate the inevitable rain that will come along and soak your parade.
We do all of that and then we wonder why life is so hard. Because if hard isn’t hard enough, we add our own dose of harder to what’s supposed to be easy.
Besides our own negative spin, we can’t discount the spiritual battle we face daily. God knows how we think and has given us truth to fight the battle raging in our thought life. Because how we think impacts how we feel and how we feel impacts how we act. The roller-coaster life. Sounds like a good name for a podcast.
But we don’t have to live a roller-coaster life. There is a better way of thinking which leads to a better way of life. A life lived in color.
A Better Way of Thinking
The scenic beauty in this image drew me in, but what really struck me is the story behind the photo…
“My friend (and co-worker) is colorblind. So the office pitched in to buy special glasses that change the color spectrum, allowing him to see color. Yesterday we visited Mt. Tam. where, for the first time, he was able to see an orange sunset.” — Joshua Sortino (Photo location: Mount Tamalpais, CA).
How amazing is that?
Friends helping a friend see a beautiful orange sunset for the first time?
It’s as if we can feel the joy exude from this person whom we don’t even know, while he is taking in this amazingly positive, life-changing experience. We read the story behind it and we think, wow, I would love to be a part of something that big and something that beautiful.
Well, we can.
We have an opportunity to choose the colors of positivity every day and help others see the colors of positivity, too. It may not seem as tangible as specialized glasses or as impactful as a first-time orange sunset, but the way we help others see the positive and the way we show others how we get through challenges and live out Christ in us, can make a significant and eternal impact.
Even when we feel we didn’t do such a bang-up job of moving through the hard days, the key words here are moving and through. We kept moving and made it through. That inspires people and gives them hope.
God shows us how we can focus on the positive and it starts with how we think…
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV
This verse is familiar to many — a favorite even. Yet we aren’t living it every day because focusing on what is positive takes discipline. During hard times we may only see our life in black and white because we tend to focus on the negative and strip away the color.
When life gets hard we long for easy. Maybe we’ve even fantasized living life out in someone else’s shoes — living someone else’s life. We think if only we had their money, looks, good fortune, opportunities, silver spoon, house, career, stay-at-home whatever, husband, wife….
But their life brings their own set of hard and their shoes won’t fit us. We are the only ones who can live out our life well — all the easy, hard, mess, and beauty.
Everything we have been through, are going through, or will go through in the future has purpose if we trust God with our story. When we live out our story through surrendering it to Him, He will lead us through what has already been written. Our plans.
On days when life seems hard and we wish for easier times, let’s remember those times weren’t easier at the time. And those times only seem easier now because what was hard back then has helped us bloom and learn and grow into our current shoe size.
Learning to Grow When Life is Hard
Even in the most tragic and horrifically hard times in life, we learn something. Perhaps these aren’t lessons we signed up for, but never-the-less, we experience them. When we think hard about the hard times, we find it moved us to do something — to feel something we’ve never felt. We find we have to look at life in a different way. We find purpose and often times have been entrusted with a mission.
How We Can Think on the Positive
- We can think on every good thing, then refocus our sight to match our thoughts.
- We can think on the meaning of life which is simply that life has meaning through Christ — our life has meaning and perhaps even more so in the hard which helps us grow, stretch, learn, and teach.
- We can think on the absolute truth that every dark experience brought to light can help others see an orange sunset.
- We can think on the Lord and His unfailing love, His faithfulness, and how He is our security.
Then we come to the inevitable debunking of positivity, people die.
Some would ask where is the positive in the death of a loved one? Sure, people die all the time for a cause they signed up for, knowing full well the risks, but what of those who have died in innocence and at the hand of evil and as a result of destructive choices?
Some may ask why a loving God would allow His own Son to experience such a horrific death?
Where is the positive in all of that?
My pastor said an amazingly impactful thing this morning:
“LOVE IS GREATER THAN DEATH” — David Lane
Love is greater than death..
and because of love, Jesus died. He gave His life for us because love is greater than death. God raised Him from the dead because love is greater than death.
Love is greater than death…
and those we miss live on in our hearts and because love is greater than death, we carry out a mission and we tell their stories so others can learn and remember and benefit — so others can be saved.
Love is greater than death…
and because love is greater than death, we will see to it that their lives will continue to impact the lives of others.
Because love is greater than death, death doesn’t win and it can’t steal our ability to live a life in color.
Living Our Lives in Living Color
It’s like the movie The Wizard of Oz. The Technicolor didn’t happen until after the storm and it wasn’t until after the storm that the journey got harder. But even when the harder happened and the witch loomed and the wizard wasn’t who he portrayed himself to be, everyone found their purpose — or their fate. They all became better and not better versions of themselves — they became their true selves. All except the evil ones who curled up dead under a house and melted right out of the story.
Just in case you haven’t seen the movie (because you just moved here from Mars — no offense), here it is…
Life is beautiful.
We can choose positive and see it in color, or we can choose negative and live in a perpetual storm of gray.
We can choose friends who bring us down or friends who help us see an orange sunset when color eludes us.
We can remember that down the road these times will seem like easier times. Not because life gets harder but because we keep growing and that makes life better.
We can live a positive life in living color. We just need to open our eyes to the possibilities.
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