Recently I was having breakfast with a guy who I respect and appreciate. He and I were discussing life and the value of understanding how God works in our lives. As He was sharing a story, he used an illustration that I’d never thought about before. He said, “God has you work on a level of your life and then you get on the elevator and you’ve got to keep going down to work on the next level.” This resonated with me and I’d take it a step further. Before I do that, though, let’s get a mental picture in our heads.
You’re in a hotel and your responsibility is to clean up the rooms that you’ve been living out of on a regular basis. Some rooms look like they haven’t been touched while others look like a scene from the Hangover. You work hard and frantically to clean up the mess. It takes so much out of you, but you get the job done. Feeling accomplished you get back on the elevator only to see now that there’s a new level below the one you’re on that you need to clean.
Life can feel like that sometimes. You work on an area of your life, but once you’ve got things in order you find that there is something deeper you need to work on.
In podcast Ep. 008: Anxious and Faking It: Hiding Your Pain, we discussed how our actions are driven by the deep pain that we suppress. Here’s what I feel like happens: somewhere in our lives, usually from our childhoods, we’re hurt and experience pain. That pain leads to insecurities, which lead to lies we believe and then in turn leads to self-medication.
So much of our actions are the result of our insecurities. That being said, hang with me for a moment and do some self-reflection. Ask yourself this question: Is My Negativity Actually My Insecurity?
Constructive Criticism vs. Negativity
Before we move on, I want to give clarity to something. Negativity and constructive criticism are not the same thing. Constructive criticism is all about helping a situation. It’s about seeing how something can be better for the good of those involved. Negativity, on the other hand, is selfish criticism that has no concern for the betterment of the situation or those involved. Don’t ever use the label “constructive criticism” when you’re actually just being negative about something. If this makes you defensive, then maybe you need to take a self-assessment of your actions. Look at your responses and use the above definitions to help you determine whether you’re being negative or providing constructive criticism.
Negativity Seeks to Protect our Insecurities
Something really amazing that the human body does when you have a sickness is that it raises your body temperature to help kill the infection. What if our insecurities did the same thing? Well not raise our temperature, but used negativity to try to kill a threat.
Here’s what I see happening in my own life. I have some significant insecurity issues when it comes to whether I matter or not. When I’m feeling the most insecure is usually when I notice that I am the most negative. Here’s an example of this: several years ago, writing worship songs was a passion of mine and I spent a significant amount of time investing in that craft. We were working on a new worship album at church and many of us on the team were asked to submit songs we had written for consideration. I submitted 5 songs. I’ll admit that they weren’t perfect, but I was proud of the work I had done on them. The time came to find out which songs were going to be used on the album and not one of mine made it. Full transparency, I was really hurt. It was like throwing meat to a pack of dogs. In my case, the pack of dogs was my insecurity. Over the next few months the unsolved issues in me started turning into negativity. I wasn’t excited about the album. I was judgmental of the people working on the album. I was negative about anything and everything that had to do with the album.
Do you see now what was happening in my heart? My insecurity started telling me lies. It started saying, “You’re not good enough. No one cares about you. Your contribution doesn’t matter.” And because I started to believe all these lies, my insecurities needed to protect itself from the hurt. That protection came in the form of negativity.
Positivity Doesn’t Cure Negativity, but it Helps
I do feel that it’s important to point out that we can make a dent in this pattern in how we choose to look at a situation. Positivity can be a healthy dose of medicine in keeping the negativity at bay. I found that when I started to root on my teammates who had their songs chosen for the album, my perspective began to shift and my anxiety about the situation started to decrease. Again, it didn’t fix my issues, but it did help.
Positivity allows the focus to shift off of you and your self-pity and see that the world has other people in it who are doing good things.
You’ll never be able to change your struggle with negativity until you do the work of getting on the elevator and working down to the ground floor. You have to know what the pain is that’s causing you to be insecure. You have to know what lies you are believing to be able to know why you’re self-medicating. That's hard work.
Questions to Ponder:
Do you or others see negativity in your actions?
What makes you insecure?
How will you seek positivity over negativity?