Thursday, March 26, 2009

Misery Loves Company

I'm noticing things about myself these days...more than the obvious like my hair is falling out or that it wouldn't hurt for me to lose two or three or thirty pounds. I'm noticing that I have to work hard not to have a negative attitude about things. Instead of looking at the good things happening around me I tend to focus on the bad. Being negative seems to come naturally. Sometimes my sarcastic side comes out before I can stop it – or maybe I don't want to stop it. Other times I'm just plain mean. If there's something going on that I don't like I'm going to make sure others don't like it either. Misery loves company.

Where's the joy in my life? Why is it so easy for me to focus on the negative rather than celebrate the positive? I really have a lot to be happy about - a beautiful and loving wife, a caring family with a whole bunch of fantastic nieces and nephews, great friends that I can share life with, a stable and fulfilling job, the opportunity to see beautiful places and meet amazing people around the world, a comfortable and well built home, an abundance of food, reliable transportation, the freedom to openly worship and talk about God...I could go on and on about how blessed I am and yet more often than not I find myself dwelling on the bad. What's up with that? Where does this negativity come from? Why can't I be content instead of grousing about insignificant things or looking for someone to blame for my unhappiness and trying to bring others down?

Maybe that's it...perhaps I've stumbled onto something as I write this. Why do I need to assign blame to someone or something instead of taking responsibility for my own actions or feelings? If someone does something that I don't particularly agree with why do I let it bring me down? I can't control what other people do or say so why do I let it affect me as much as I do? I'm the only one who can really control how I react to situations or something someone says. It's up to me how I respond to any given situation that I find myself in. I can either live my life thinking the worst about people's motive's or intentions or I can choose to look for the positive. If I choose to wallow in the negative, why shouldn't I expect my life to be negative? If I choose to focus on the good things that surround me doesn't it make sense that my attitude will mirror those positive things? Too often I let my attitude be affected by external influences that are completely out of my control. The only person who can truly make me happy is me. I can find joy in the people around me and we can share good times but ultimately it is my responsibility to choose whether I am going to be positive or negative in how I approach life.

I'm not naive...I know that sometimes bad things are going to happen. There will be difficult times and situations that come up more often than I would like. How I've reacted to those situations in the past has determined whether I'm in a funk for an extended period of time or whether I've picked myself up, shaken off the dust, learned from the experience and moved on. If I dwell on the negative and try to control what others are doing I end up trapped in a cycle of self pity and that's exactly where Satan wants me. If I give it over to God and let Him be in control things tend to swing back toward the positive a lot faster. Everyone has different life experiences that shape how we think and feel. I may not have had an "ideal childhood" (whatever that is) but it was far better than what a lot of other people had and I believe my parents did the best they could given the circumstances. I would be taking the easy way out to assign blame for the situations of my upbringing and using them as an excuse for my behavior instead of taking responsibility for my actions and making an effort to change how I respond to challenges today.

Does that mean that I'm going to be so optimistic that I begin to believe I'm living in some sort of utopia? Hardly. I have enough life experience to know that there is no heaven on earth...that comes in our next life. I also know that God never said our lives would be easy and without pain. What matters is how we react to the challenges we come across and ultimately how we live our present lives as a result. I'm tired of being negative and focusing on the bad or dwelling on the past. From this point on I choose to look forward, to search for the positive things in my life and to not get caught in the undertow of the bad things that will most certainly continue to happen. With God's help I will change the things that I can change within myself and stop focusing on what is beyond my control and allowing it to pull me and the people around me down. I am truly thankful for everyone and everything that God has placed in my life and it's time for me to start expressing that appreciation.

1 comment:

morning coffee said...

I accepted your shameless plug and took a tour of your blog site. Nice stuff. In terms of "Misery Loves Company", I thought about a friend of mine in Bellingham. She went to work about a year ago for an 'abused women's shelter' and she told me that it has changed her life. She said that she used to be bitter about life and, specifically, coveting what she perceived everyone else had. However, according to her, seeing what these abused women experience and fear, she has now come to appreciate all that she has in life and to be thankful for it.
Anyway, appreciate your thoughts and, more importantly, I appreciate you.