Are You Positive?

September 6, 2012

Excerpt from Hebrews 12:3-13

"Do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up." (Good News Bible)

Reflection by William C. Green

When I was upset growing up I was always told to "look on the positive side." That never worked. When a pet dog died, what was the positive side? That my dog hadn't really died and I'll meet him again in heaven? When my bike got stolen, what was the positive side? At the time my parents couldn't buy a new one. Was I just to use my brother's (which he jealously guarded)? When I got discouraged by the departure of my best friend to a city far away, what was the positive side? "Don't be discouraged. You'll make new friends." That denied what I'd lost.

It's been said that the opening three words in Scott Peck's "The Road Less Traveled" accounted more than anything else for the quick sale of over 7 million copies in the U.S. "Life is difficult." Peck says we live thinking we're supposed to be happy and pass that attitude on to our children. Being confident and upbeat is normal. So what's wrong with me? It's normal to have a few struggles at home but nothing too serious. So where did I go wrong? It's normal to have doubts about my faith, my church, my job, but nothing to make a fuss about. So how come these doubts disturb me so much? Am I just a negative person, probably weak and insecure, in need of therapy?

Maybe. But before we jump to that conclusion it's wise to reconsider what we think is abnormal. It's taken me a while to realize how being positive can be the real problem. Nothing makes us nuttier - and more negative - than counting blessings and looking on the positive side when what's disturbing is suppressed and considered a bad attitude or a sign of bad faith.

Long ago the Bible backed up Scott Peck. Life is difficult for sure and what's normal is not harmony and happiness. The Scripture text today doesn't say "don't be discouraged." It says "don't be discouraged and give up." No one got more discouraged than Jesus. He didn't hide that. And he didn't give up. That's a good example for us.

Prayer

May we speak the truth, God, especially when we're discouraged. And may we keep on, not giving up, in the spirit of Christ. Amen.

About the Author
William C. Green is Vice-President for Strategy and Development, Moral Courage Project, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the author of 52 Ways to Ignite Your Congregation: Generous Giving.

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