Lately, the amount of negativity in the world has left me unsettled. Social media and the news being the biggest irritants on the matter. Surprisingly, neither of those were the source, when I became truly fed up with this issue. The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that read, “Not a Liberal.” Simple statement, right? Not much worth fussing over. However, I was struck by the verbiage of that remark. Why say, “Not a Liberal?” Why not state that you are conservative? My takeaway was that this driver is so against being liberal, that he would rather state how much he is not liberal, rather than celebrate what he is supporting of in life. I see no benefit in shaming another point of view to state the beauty of your own. This is the way life seems to be delivered to us now. We’re given news through a series of one liner blurbs that either leave one feeling great about who they are or shaming them for their opinion on a matter. Why can’t we simply “accentuate the positive,” as Gordon B. Hinckley states in his book, Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes? As much as I would like to copy and paste the entire chapter, Optimism in the Face of Cynicism, from this book, I will refrain. But, oh, what beautiful things we would see in our world, if people took the time to nurture the ten neglected virtues mentioned.
The concept of focusing on the positive first struck me when I was kneeling in prayer with my husband years ago. He was saying the prayer and asked that our children be protected from harm. Perfectly normal thing to pray for and I echoed his words in my heart. However, I began to realize that when he asked that they be protected from harm, my mind drifted off to the terrible harms that could potentially come their way. When it was my night to pray, I began to switch around the wording to ask that our Heavenly Father watch over our children or keep them safe. Omitting the word “harm” kept my mind in a more positive place. I do the same with my children now, as we kneel in family prayer and it’s my turn to say the prayer. I ask that they all have sweet dreams and get a good night’s rest. Whereas, when my children pray, they ask that they not have any nightmares. We want the same thing, but the manner in which we present it makes a difference, I believe. One of my daughters will sometimes even pray that, “no fires will burn our house down and no bad guys will steal [them].” I want to be fire free and kidnap free even more than she does, but those words trigger dark images in my mind. Our words have a great impact on our attitudes and outlook. Such a simple change in verbiage can either lead me to greater peace or greater anxiety.
This topic of optimism is so far-reaching that I don’t intend to wrap all my thoughts into one post. Tonight, I simply wanted to encourage us all to contemplate how we are approaching our daily activities and experiences. Are we expressing ourselves in a negative manner or potentially conjuring up negative thoughts by the words we use? Are we stating who we are by stating who we’re not? I’m a Christian woman with the understanding that we have a Father in Heaven, a Savior, the Holy Ghost, and then Lucifer standing on the opposing side. I don’t give Lucifer the privilege of crediting his name by saying, “I’m not with Satan.” Instead, I say, “I know my Savior lives and loves me.”
A relevant and real life example of the change we can make in our approach is how the city of Roseburg, OR handled the recent mass shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC). The community asked that the gunman remain anonymous. Instead, the focus was shifted to Chris Mintz who was noted as a hero for having been shot seven times, as he was rushing the UCC shooter. This is a tragic event that I cannot comprehend enduring nor do I intend to discuss further. I simply find the action of accentuating the positive virtues of one man, in the face of calamity, as admirable and inspiring.
I’ve learned that changing the wording of my prayers has brought me greater peace. I no longer use verbiage that amps my anxiety or lets my fears take over. Now the goal for me is to understand where else in my life I may be expressing myself in a negative fashion. As I sit here contemplating where I can improve on this matter, I’m reminded of the quote by Tom Peters that I shared in Musings of a Mom, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” Perhaps it’s time that I see how I can uplift my children more by accentuating the positive rather than focusing on the negative?
As I mentioned, this topic of optimism could infiltrate so many aspects of our lives, and tonight is not the time for that. Tonight, I close with a plea for each of us to accentuate the positive! If you have an experience where you made this shift in your own life, I would love to hear about it in the comments below!