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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

Positivity vs Negativity as a Christian

I've always cringed at the phrase "positive mindset" and works like "The Secret" as (1) a rather cynical person and (2) an inherent belief that such paths lead to a non-Christian perspective on life. It's hard to sell the idea that a mindset would lead you or your achievements a certain way, to which my conservative theology mindset starts to kick in and yell "prosperity gospel." Of course, many of those that subscribe to the positivity mindset ideology probably prioritize their mindset over some divine being who has control over the universe, as it's hard to imagine someone relying on their own self and attitude to have belief that their "fate" is in someone else's hands. I've gone back and forth on this matter quite a bit recently as it pertains to my own life, in both a religious and secular context, and wanted to take the time to not only share my thoughts but use this post as a means of clearing up where I currently stand to myself.

To clarify what I mean by "prosperity gospel" - I'm talking about the Joel Osteen's of the world who seem to profess that following a positive mindset, which in the context of false Christianity is the idea that if you believe in God and you obey him, good things will come your way in not only a spiritual sense, but in worldly matters. This is very dangerous teaching, as people who remotely understand what Christianity is about will tell you, as the fundamentals of the faith actually builds on the idea that what we truly deserve is death, pain is at every corner of this life, and only Jesus can bring us back to God. I don't want to focus this post too much on my faith nor do I intend to use this as an opportunity to condemn those that believe in prosperity gospel (while it's wrong) - I just think it's important to make a distinction as to why an overall sense of "positivity" for result-oriented intentions is dangerous in my world view. It's important to always turn back to the Word when it comes to knowing what's sound and not and it seems that many of the "greats" don't necessarily have a positive mindset, at least not how the world defines it. Moses is depicted as fearful and unsure of his abilities to carry out what the Lord has asked of him, Peter is no better even after seeing Jesus' miracles up close and we all know that David isn't afraid to let his cynicism get the best of him. I do think what's important to highlight here is that all the figures of the Bible that God wants us to look at as prime examples of men and women of faith exhibit that very word - faith isn't about expecting positivity to drive positive results, but rather embracing that God will drive the results He wants, regardless of our mindset.

It's also important to acknowledge how much self-awareness, personality, and some level of intellect affects the balance between one's positivity vs. negativity. I'd take a quick pause here and admit that I am somewhat using positivity and negativity interchangeably with optimism and pessimism - they're a bit different in application, but for the purposes of this article I'd interpret it as the same. In reverse order - as pretentious as this sounds - it's probably harder to to positive if you're smarter. Especially in this day and age, the more you know the more you're aware of the faults of this world, self-critical of yourself and others and bothered by things others may consider to be "minute details." It's hard to remain positive given the over-exposure to information we have today, with incentives for negativity to take prominence over good news. Personality is hard to overcome - some people are naturally more pessimistic than others, whether it'd be through constant negative experiences or just an innate DNA build centered around hormones that profuse negativity (I'm slightly talking out of my butt here, but I assume this is a thing in today's atmosphere of mental health). Self-awareness is encompassed across both of the previously mentioned topics, and I'm of the belief that being overly introspective also brings in negativity as human beings are faulty by nature. It probably doesn't help to continuously find out more and more faults - it's that deep thought spiral you fall into when you're busy.

With all this negativity behind us, I do think there's merit to the idea that keeping a positive attitude allows for you to see opportunities in an optimistic light, as the pessimism closes doors before you even try opening them. It's crucial to admit to yourself that this is only enabled by your trust in the Lord and that even if the results of what you tackle do not end up the way you intended or envisioned (it probably won't), what comes on the other side is part of the plan that you're also a part of. If you can somehow embrace this as the "positive mindset," the idea that your depiction of positivity and what constitutes it may not be what God intended, and that whatever the consequence of your actions may be, your faith enables you to align it as the truly "positive" result, it is at that point you are good to go. Of course, this is much easier said than done and if anything, impossible. If any of us were to go through what Job went through and asked to maintain a "positive mindset" because that's what's going to get us through all of our family dying, losing all our fortunes and our friends calling us dumb, I don't think anyone's going to be picking up a copy of "Become a Better You." It's this reality that, and some of you not of the faith may find this cruel and in some ways perverted, I think further solidifies for me the idea that we are faulty and God is perfect. It is by definition impossible for us to understand why God's definition of optimism and what is best for us and ultimately His kingdom at all points of our life, we can only aspire to get better at it as time passes.

I still don't think positive mindsets drive positive results nor do I think being in an echo chamber of pessimism allows for any level of personal growth - on a secular level, you need a balance of both. You need to be ready to fail that interview for that perfect job but also acknowledge the time you put in and all you've achieved thus far that will enable you to get it - as long as that's what God has in store. It's not about getting the actual job, but rather how it fits into his plan and whether or not you're able to accept the result regardless of what you would've perceived the result to be. Instead of seeing the glass half full or empty, let's know that God will never let us go thirsty.

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