Dr. Jack Haskins a professor at the University of Tennessee did s study to determine the effects of a five minute radio program that was filled with negative news stories: children blown up, earthquakes, riots, etc. One group listened to these types of stories JUST 5 minutes a day, the other group, the control group listened to positive news stories for the same 5 minutes.
Haskins in evaluating the subjects at the end of the study found that those who listened to just 5 minutes of negative radio reports daily were: (1) more depressed than before; (2) they believed the world was a negative place; (3) they were less likely to help others; and (4) they began to believe that the negative things they heard would soon happen to them.
How could this be? Could 5 minutes of negativity really have that much impact on someone?
What happens with a life of negativity?
Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,”
Like it or not we are in part products of what we “THINK.” If we think negative all the time, more than likely our lives will be somewhat negative. Now I am not a “name it and claim it” preacher. I don’t believe in prosperity theology or the idea that bad things never happen to people who are positive. But I do believe that life for many is miserable because they think “half-empty” thoughts 99% of the time rather than “half-full” thoughts.
I know this because negativity was my life. In high-school and even early in college I had a VERY negative thought pattern. I could always find the negative in a situation: I complained about my job, I complained about school, I complained about relationships, I complained about the government, I complained about the church, I complained about my sports teams, I complained about…well you name it I am sure I complained about it. I was consistently negative. Christina, my girlfriend (now wife) at the time, wanted to introduce me to her friends, I hadn’t even met them and I was already being negative towards them. I remember Christina asking me if I liked anyone? I told her, “I like you and I like my friends. But that is about it.” I was negative!!!
You know what is weird all those years of being negative, I found myself obsessed with death! My best friend Scott regularly used to tell me how morbid I was and that I didn’t need to constantly talk about dying. But I couldn’t help it, my negativity was effecting everything about the way I thought.
Then I went to Africa…many stories here to share but I’ll save them for another time…but while in Africa I daily did two things: I served others daily and I spent an abundant amount of time in prayer & Bible study.
My day would consist of rising around 5:30 or 6 in the morning spending at least an hour in prayer and Bible study. The rest of my morning would be spent in preparation to share the Gospel, then in the afternoon I would go out and visit locals, walk around the streets, appreciate the simplicity of things. Then in the evening I would preach. I would end each night studying the Bible more, reading The Great Controversy, and praying–then I would chat with my roommate Ben Martin ’till I fell asleep.
After just about a month of this I found my outlook on life completely changed. I didn’t even fully realize just how much ’till folk back home began to comment on how different I was. My parents, my friends, Christina. They all will testify that since that time in Africa I have never been the same.
I went from extremely negative to extremely positive.
Daily I meet people and speak with people that are just like I was. If I say something positive, they find the negative. If I try to encourage they retort with a complaint or negative remark. I have come to see negativity as a great pandemic within our society…a pandemic that is spreading with the help of media and even our own peers who speak negativity around us and so we get sucked in and join the negative dialogue.
So how do we break it? I believe my Africa experience is key!
Does that mean you have to go to Africa to become a positive person? NO! Because what ultimately changed me can be experienced right here in the U.S. of A..
(1.) Daily time with the Lord in Bible study and prayer
(2.) Daily looking for opportunities to serve others
1.) When our lives are void of the presence of God we will be negative, yes if you are not spending time in prayer and Bible study your life is void of the presence of God. God is not impacting our lives simply b/c we hope for it, we must connect. Just like I can’t impact my kids lives if I never spend time with them. It doesn’t matter how much I love them from a distance if I am not around them, I have no influence. In like manner, if God is not around us, by us allowing Him to speak to us through prayer and Bible study, we are not influenced by Him.
2.) And when we are not serving others and only living for ourselves, we’ll find that negativity takes deep root! Self-centered living is negative living. Whenever I spend too much time worrying about me, I find that I tend to become consumed with what is happening in my life and when I become consumned with anything other than God I tend to become negative. I have noticed that as I have grown as a pastor I have lost negativity. Why? Because I have a passion to reach people! And being consumned with the desire keeps me positive. Also being a parent has forced me to become more and more positive. What my kids do, even when they frustrate me, isn’t ultimately about me! My free time is about my two boys! And therefore I don’t have a lot of time to think about maybe what is wrong in me, but rather I am living in service to my wife, my sons, my church, my community. This outward focus builds my positivity.
The verse I quoted earlier said “as we think we are!” I guess I am basically saying, if you think about God and you think about others honestly and sincerely by doing actions of service for them, I promise you your negativity will disappear. You will be happier and so will everyone else around you!
(Stay tuned for more “Pandemic” posts this week)