Now all you atheist friends and family don’t run away screaming; this is not going to be a “preachy” post. Regardless of whether you believe in God, I would like you to consider that it is important to nurture our spiritual and emotional well-being. And regardless of whether you believe in God, you can find some pretty profound words of wisdom in the Bible.
The verse I’d like to contemplate today is this:
In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. (Philippians 4:8, Good News Translation)
This verse means a couple of things to me, as far as practical application goes. First, we should try to focus on the positive things that happen to us. If we are constantly focusing on all of the negative things that happen in our lives, we are not going to be happy or emotionally healthy. Bad stuff happens to good people. Life is not fair. But dwelling on the unfairness or the horrible things that happen tends to amplify their effect on us, while dwelling on the good stuff makes us emotionally stronger and more resilient to the bad stuff. Continually obsessing about the stress in our lives is just stressful!
I find that when I’ve had a bad day (or week), the more I sit around wallowing in how horrible my day was, the worse it really seems. However, if I put forth the effort to mentally hit the reset button, and get past whatever has upset me (made me angry, sad, frustrated, etc), I can still manage to salvage joy from the day in spite of the potholes. I need to be able to say, “It is what it is” and move on so that I don’t miss something positive in the day.
I’m not saying you have to be Pollyanna in order to be happy, or that I expect you to be unrealistically cheerful when there is an appropriate call for tears or mourning. Neither am I saying that you should be flippant about life in general. I’m just saying that it’s a lot easier to get past the bad stuff if you make a conscious decision to let it go.
Second, we should try to focus on the positive things we can do for others. Nothing can uplift your spirit faster than helping someone else. If we are making a point of dwelling on positive things, I truly think that it makes us more receptive to opportunities to do something positive for someone else, whereas if we are busy dwelling on our crappy day, we are too focused on ourselves to recognize the needs of others.
As a corollary to these thoughts, we will also find our relationships with others strengthened if we focus on the positive aspects of their character rather than the negative ones. If we are engrossed in the things about others that annoy, frustrate, or anger us, our relationships WILL suffer. Everyone does something that gets on our nerves at times. We have to choose to let that go and instead intentionally call to mind the things that we love or appreciate about that person. With some people this is harder to do than with others! But any relationship will benefit if we can train ourselves to do this. It will make your home life far more peaceful, and probably your workplace as well.
I will add a word here about forgiveness (I will likely post more on it later). A person does not need to ASK for your forgiveness in order for you to forgive them. Often people don’t “deserve” to be forgiven for wronging us. But harboring negative feelings toward someone because of something they’ve done to you really only hurts YOU. Make the decision now to forgive that person, regardless of whether they have apologized, regardless of whether they have asked you to forgive them, regardless of whether they deserve it. I can’t emphasize this enough: YOU deserve it! It is not good for you to be sustaining those toxic feelings–it is only poisoning you!
What about you? Have you noticed that if you dwell on the bad stuff you feel more down, but if you make a conscious effort to focus on something positive it makes it a little easier to bear? Have you noticed that the way you feel about someone is affected to which aspects of their character you choose to focus on, to define who they are to you?