What we celebrate—we become!
It’s a common phrase used in church leadership circles and corporate life. It’s a great question to ask as an icebreaker for anyone—even your group! Imagine sitting around a table at your favorite establishment. Look for the right time to ask the question. It’s usually when there is lively banter and everyone is excited to get together anyway. Ask the question: what are you celebrating? It’s a way to find out what people value, where they put their energy and what makes them come alive. It also reveals a lot about the attitude in which they live.
You will notice an amazing shift when you focus on celebrating. It’s kind of like the glass half full perspective. You and I are ridiculously in charge* of how we live our lives and what we choose to focus our energy on. Sure, it’s normal to get down in the dumps. But, we all have a choice as to how long we stay down in the dumps and who we pull down there with us. I don’t want to be around someone who’s always negative or the cold bucket of water on a great conversation. That doesn’t sound very ‘Christian’ of me but it’s true. It’s easy to saddle Jesus and Jesus people with the task of being around difficult people. I challenge you to look through the gospels and let me know how much time he spent hanging out with people like this. I like the idea that Jesus ate and drank with sinners. I really like that all of the gospels agree on this subject. You and I both know how to identify people like this and we all know people who douse a positive, upward, momentum building conversation.
1. Sometimes it starts with self-defeating words like:
‘I’m not good enough…’
I’m not up to the mark.’
When we put ourselves down and keep repeating these words like this, we limit our beliefs behind these words. What we think will become reality. Sometimes people do this to get attention or to control the conversation. Side step this right away. Don’t get sucked into the negative abyss. I noticed something about myself—that if I acquiesce into this behavior or succumb to the ‘humdrum,’ I get a little on me. It’s like that wad of goo on the bottom of your shoe. You can try and pull it off—but be prepared for it making a mess.
2. Often negative assumptions are made: (I just want to go on record to remind you what it means to ‘assume' things.)
We tend to evaluate situations, jump to conclusions and assume the negative. Pay attention to people who tend to say, ‘The traffic’s horrible,’ or ‘Why even bother planning, we’re going to have pouring rain.’ There’s no denying the truth behind those words. But they can reveal deep seeded cynicism. They also highlight that someone has already raised the white flag. Tweaking the phrases we use changes our relationship with our circumstances immediately. It’s the “glass is half full or half empty” philosophy.
3. Negative comparisons are like wearing concrete boots to the beach.
Negative people compare themselves to everyone else because our human desire tends to focus on how to get ahead or succeed in life. It’s hard to accept but this leads us to compare ourselves with others. We tend to envy those who are more attractive or have more money. Therefore, we often use negative words such as ‘I’m just as good as she is,‘ or ‘He’s got so much money, he won’t know what to do with it.’ The words that come out of our mouth are revealing what’s really within our heart. Look how often the bible mentions this: Matthew 12:34; Proverbs 4:23; Proverbs 10:11; Psalm 14:1; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 24:12; Ezekiel 11:21; Ezekiel 16:30; Luke 6:45. Research shows that the negative comparisons cause stress. Like any of us need more stress!
4. Christ followers have to work on disempowering beliefs about difficult people. (This is where I struggle.)
“This one is a piece of work!” Toxic people. We all have them and sometimes we are them. We can harbor negative thoughts, memories or experiences about toxic people and we become super-toxic people ourselves. Whether they are narcissistic or maybe passive-aggressive, we tend to think or say, ‘This person is lame.’ Such statements disempower us from responding in a Christ-honoring way. It’s kind of ironic—don’t you think—when we act like this but point it out in someone else? Be careful—it takes one to know one. (Romans 2:1-3) Give yourself the opportunity to learn how to address potential conflicts or misgivings by confessing your own stuff to Christ. It sounds like this, “Jesus, I get defensive or I am really negative about this person. I am a heart attack waiting to happen. That’s on me. Forgive me for judging them. Put me in the right place spiritually so I can deal with them the way you would want to deal with them. Amen.”
5. Decide whether or not you want to play the blame game.
Finally, we tend to hold others responsible for our misery, failures and adversity. We’ve all heard it. “It’s all _______ fault.” Notice whether or not this is a habit. I’ve shared with you before about those deep pathways in your brain. Imagine if one of them is negatively blaming others. How deep is that crevice? Hurt people, hurt people. I know you know this but it bears repeating here. Other people who you may be frustrated with don’t realize you’re hurting and they often don’t care. It's the truth. While our anger may be justified—none of us can see a positive resolution through the fog of our own victimization. Jesus can give us power, cleanse us and even heal us if we are able to allow him to do his work in our lives. Empower Jesus in your life and permit yourself to work through the difficulties with a trusted friend or coach, instead of dwelling on the one who’s hurt you which simply adds to your anger. Imagine saying, “Let’s solve this.” Move toward a new belief.
Sunday, we concentrate on the parable of the Great Banquet. I find myself thinking about the attitude in which I attend a great party. If it’s a swanky party, I tend to be nervous. If it’s a “I have to go to this,” obligation event, I tend to be cynical. But, if it’s a party that I really want to attend, I prepare. I plan what I am going to wear. I look forward to the people I will see or meet. I get excited. What’s your attitude about the Great Banquet? Who else do you know needs to attend? What’s keeping you from inviting them?
"When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Luke 14:15