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Why I'm so negative

Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23) This is a word about attitude. Attitude is how you see the circumstances of your life. Your attitude truly is the “eye” of your body. Your attitude determines your reactions, decisions, choices and directions. If it is healthy you will move in positive ways to positive places for you, your family and your church.

Researchers John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister at Case Western University have written extensively about the human tendency to dwell on the negative:

“Our minds and lives are skewed by a fundamental imbalance that is just now becoming clear to scientists: the negativity effect. Also known as the negativity bias, it’s the universal tendency for bad events and emotions to affect us more strongly than positive ones. We’re devastated by a word of criticism but unmoved by a shower of praise. We see the hostile face in the crowd and miss all the friendly smiles. We focus so much on bad news, especially in a digital world that magnifies its power that we don’t realize how much better life is becoming for people around the world.”

Negativity is contagious and dominant in human thought. The bad is stronger than the good. Once it gains a foot hold it colors everything we think about our parents, our spouse, our children, or our neighbors. Our brains have a bias towards the negative. This is the finger print of sin.

Contentedness comes to people who find ways to compensate for bad emotions and events.

First they do no harm. In relationships, one of the keys to success is what we do not do. Decreasing the frequency of negative talk—criticism, complaints, or condemnation. In marriages that fail, people assume the worst and respond angrily—and because bad emotions are so contagious, a minor problem can quickly become a major fight. A key tactic is to overlook other’s flaws and focus on the positive.

Practice the “rule of four.” It takes four good things to overcome the impact of one bad thing. For every criticism you deliver, plan on needing to speak at least four compliments.

Put bad moments to good use. Instead of despairing at some setback in life, look for the useful lesson.

Concentrate on the good moments and relive them. Mark Twain once wrote, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” Tierney writes, “One reason that happiness increases beyond middle age is that older people spend more time savoring good memories instead of obsessing about today’s worries.”

See the big picture. Just about every measure of human welfare has improved significantly over the last decades. Crime is declining. Poverty is declining. Life spans are increasing. Christianity is growing rapidly. Most people are unaware of this because of our negativity bias. One does well not watch hours of video on school shootings. When politicians and pundits begin bickering with each other, remember the rule of four and change the channel or turn it off. Go on a low-bad diet. Look for four uplifting or inspirational stories for every bad one. Keep a healthy eye in this New Year and you will be filled with light!

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