Q. I’m tired of dealing with negative people. How can I not let their behavior affect me?
So you’ve met Negative Nelly or Bitter Betty, have you? To my chagrin, I’m all-too-well acquainted with them! And believe you me, they sometimes really get under my skin.
Chronic negativity and bitterness are like malignant tumors that grow out of control—their cancerous cells metastasizing throughout our whole being and infiltrating our very souls. They can also poison those around us. It’s not pretty!
These spiritual sicknesses cause us to think and behave in unhealthy and unholy ways. Moreover, these detrimental and destructive attitudes are responsible for injuring others. But, sadly enough, in the end, they ultimately hurt us more than anyone else. It’s a matter of self-inflicted misery.
Do you have a tendency to view the world through tainted lenses? It may just be your natural personality bent, but we often learn this unwholesome attitude from our family-of-origin and/or friends. The glass is perpetually half-empty. Constant negativity may be symptomatic of faithlessness. At the very least, it’s stinkin’ thinkin’!
The apostle Paul encourages us to engage in positive and optimistic thinking instead. He says,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
-Philippians 4:8 (ESV).
Bitterness, on the other hand, stems from envy, unforgiveness, resentment, and a basic lack of love. It causes us to despise—even hate—others and wish evil on them. Its toxic presence results in us becoming sour and cynical, angry and acrimonious. Bitterness eats us up from the inside out.
Hebrews 12:14-15 (ESV) says,
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.
We can either choose to become bitter or better. Let’s replace negativity and bitterness with faith and love.
Ryan Noel Fraser was raised in Cape Town, South Africa. An Assistant Professor of Counseling at Freed-Hardeman University, he serves as an elder and the preacher for the Bethel Springs Church of Christ in Bethel Springs, TN. Ryan is also a nonfiction, Christian author represented by Hartline Literary Agency, religion columnist for the Jackson Sun (in West Tennessee), and certified as a pastoral counselor. But most importantly, he is a husband and dad to two wonderful teenage kids. Ryan holds a B.A. in Bible and Masters in Ministry from Freed-Hardeman University, a M.Div. from Abilene Christian University, and a Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Counseling from Brite Divinity School (Texas Christian University). Follow him at @RyanNoelFraser.