The Silent Thief in Your Soul
If you’re like most people, you sabotage your own happiness and fulfillment. And you aren’t even aware you’re doing it.
I do too. I’ve written about negativity bias before and how prone I and most other people are to it. It’s a silent killer. By that, I don’t mean it will actually kill you (though a case for the negative effects of discouragement and skewed perceptions could certainly be made). No, I mean it robs us of life and joy and peace. It kills even while we live.
My wife forwarded a link to me last week to a fabulous Ted Talk by Alison Ledgerwood. This video is pure social psychology, which is fascinating enough, but I see great Kingdom of God kind of truths in it too. It’s universally applicable.
Before watching—and I strongly, eagerly, earnestly (convinced yet?) encourage you to do so—ask yourself these questions:
- Why does failure or rejection stick in our minds so much longer than success?
- Why will most people choose a surgical procedure that is 70 percent successful but very few will opt for one that is 30 percent unsuccessful—even though it’s the same procedure with the same results?
- Why will people vote for a candidate who saved 40 percent of jobs but refuse to vote for one who lost 60 percent of jobs—even though it’s the same candidate framed two different ways?
- Why does one criticism seem to outweigh a hundred compliments?
- My interpretation of this tendency is that our fallen minds are predisposed to accept loss and be suspicious of gain. We are also problem-solvers by nature, which means we spend a lot of time focusing on problems. So we tilt toward the negative.
- Unfortunately, this creates enormous obstacles in our relationship with God and others. It explains why:
- you don’t feel forgiven even when God has made it clear that you are.
- even when God has answered a hundred prayers in the last month, the one that most affects your faith is the one he didn’t answer.
- you feel like you’re the problem child in God’s kingdom.
- you are far more focused on what you’ve lost than what you’ve been given.
- when there are two or more possible explanations for a person's bad behavior, you likely tend to go ahead and judge him or her based on the worst one.
“Gospel” literally means “good news.” But in order to believe the good news, we actually have to force our way out of old thought patterns and believe the news really is good. Unfortunately, many of us are well trained in seeing the downside of life, and it seems so much more real than the truth. We say we believe while saturating ourselves in negative perceptions. As you may have noticed, that won’t work.
I’m convinced this is the number one reason so many people who believe the good news of God’s kingdom still aren’t living in joy, freedom, and fullness. We believe generally and in principle, not specifically in the extravagant claims of the gospel. We accept the worldview without applying it.
The solution isn’t complicated. In fact, a few basic shifts, if you stubbornly persist in them, can go a really long way toward retraining your mind to think truth:
- Talk about the good stuff. Don’t just think it. Articulating it has a far greater impact on your brain.
- Express gratitude often. Thankfulness boosts mood, relationships, and health.
- Stop complaining. Seriously. God doesn’t like it. It isn’t good for you or those around you. And it doesn’t help. Those three reasons should be plenty to convince anyone to stop it forever.
- Believe. Anytime scripture says something extravagantly good and beautiful about who you are or what God has done for you, believe it. Don’t add fine print. Don’t negotiate with it. Just believe it. It's true. And not negative at all.
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