Positive Faith?

The early morning hours, I got up before dawn like I usually do, and just sat and reflected on Thanksgiving.  As is my habit, I got up to read my Bible and began to write in my prayer journal.  “What would I write today?  Don’t I thank God every day for my family, friends, and colleagues? Don’t I take the time each day and thank Him for protecting them? I always thank Him for so many things in my life.”  Yes, I do these things each day, but this time, I sat in deep thought, reflecting on my life.  I thought about the article I write each month for my column, The Power of Positive Faith, and asked myself “what does that mean?”

Many times people who write aren’t writing to sell books or to become popular. They write to share stories that they feel might make some kind of positive impact on the lives of others. At least, that’s what I do and believe others do the same.  When I share my thoughts about the Power of Positive Faith, I try to think of the things that I feel makes my life better because I choose to embrace the attitude of being positive in just about every situation that might frustrate or anger me.  I am not naive, and I recognize that it is hard to do and I think some people may think that when I write about being positive, I am not being realistic.

I have heard comments such as “you can’t always be positive” or “it’s not practical to think that you can maintain a positive attitude in all situations.” That may be true, but that may not be true also. Many people face difficult challenges and great hardships and, yet, are able to force themselves to look for the light in the dark tunnel.  They seek out hope, and they don’t readily give in to disaster.  Some people maintain the faith of Noah; even when they have to face huge uncertainties, they remain steadfast and sure.

What is faith if it isn’t positive? Faith in God is positive. Faith in humanity is positive. Confidence in yourself is positive also.  So, I see faith as being a positive characteristic.  If I look at faith through my religious belief, I also see it as having a positive connotation attached to it.  To me, faith means to hope, to be assured, to trust, and to have confidence. These words trigger positive images for me.  In a more personal context, my Bible relates faith as being positive. For example, a favorite scripture is found in Hebrews 11:1 which states, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Thanksgiving, gratitude, assurances, trust, and hope all come from a place of positivity. There is power in maintaining an attitude that helps us turn our darkest moments into moments of faith that today, tomorrow or next week will be better. For those who do that, tomorrow is better.

The Art of the Dance…

blackdancersOver the years of working in government and then in higher education, as well as the years I have lived on this earth, I believe I know of one sure thing that keeps people from being successful, not only at work but in life.  That’s their inability to get along with others. Like it or not, people skills are just as important, if not more important, than technical skills. In fact, you may not need any other skill when dealing with others than to skill of understanding how to get along with people. It amazes me when I see very smart people who find themselves isolated and wondering why. I have had such folks explain how they are feeling at work; they say no one includes them or they feel left out.  When I move away all the peripheral, it becomes clear that the reasons they may feel the waythey do are because they haven’t learned the art of the dance.

That Art of the Dance is a slogan I came up with after watching a few people at work who  said they felt isolated.

There was a person who was highly competent but he could not seem to gain the buy-in of his peers.  It wasn’t that he didn’t get along with one person, he didn’t get along withany of them!  I watched and determined that he did not set out to alienate them, but he did not have the emotional intelligence developed enough to figure out how to get them to accept him.  He was very professional, highly intelligent, very candid, and easily took prisoners as he entered into his counterparts’ areas.  It was his job to check on things; but he was checking on things in his peers’ areas.  He had a job to do and he did it and did it well.  What he neglected to think about was not what he had to do, but how he should go about doing it. Thus, he alienated himself from the entire leadership team.

Look, you may read this and think of someone you know who may have done the exact same thing this person had done.  I found myself doing the same. One day he stopped in my office and asked me how did he had done in a particular meeting.  It dawned on me that he valued input from someone he thought he could get friendly, yet candid, feedback from.  I thought about every response because he was seeking help. I talked to him for an hour and gave him plenty of feedback. Finally,  at one point,  I looked at him and said, “You haven’t learned how to dance with your partners.”  He looked at me and understood right away what I meant.

This is what I meant.  We all come to the party (organization) with different skills, abilities, and knowledge. I think we all come wanting to do a good job and yes, we even want to be recognized for our contributions.  The things we tend to rely on are those skills and abilities, sometimes never considering our delivery; never thinking about the benefits of having high emotional intelligence and most often never watching to see what steps our partners may be taking as we both dance around issues that need to be worked on together.

I don’t care how big we become; I don’t care how much we know, if people don’t think we care, we can ruin our ability to make an impact on them. If you haven’t figured out how to let others get pass your hard core that may come through in the way you speak, the way your act or the way you refuse to interact, they may walk off the dance floor and never return.

Before pushing your way forward, stop and observe.  Watch your partner’s steps and learn how to dance well together.

 

Attitude Changes Everything…

positiveattitudechangeseverythingYou ever watch people and wonder why some are successful and others are not? Lately, that’s exactly what I have done.  I am not talking about success only in terms of financial wealth or status. I am talking about how people deal with life, their jobs, families, relationships, or their personal goals.

I have met people who could find one job after another with no problem and others who were always out of work and when they finally landed a good job, they were immediately in conflict with their bosses and let go.  I have known leaders in organizations who were confident and candid, thought of as rude, yet quite successful and other leaders who were thin-skinned and passive-aggressive, who were thought of as nice, yet stuck in place. I have seen strong and independent types as well as weak and co-dependent types.  I think about the people who were genuine and those who were phony. When I think about different people, especially the ones that were not happy or joyful; the ones who were anxiety-ridden and those who were highly insecure, I believe I have found the reasons some people thrive in life and others do not–it’s their Attitude!

First, I believe there are physical and psychological problems people deal with every day. I do not deny that people have real physiological and mental problems. However, I also know that many times success in life has very little to do with a medical issue, it has everything to do with how people see their world.

positiveattitudesmileyfaceHow do you see the world? How is your their attitude towards whatever it is you are dealing with? Do you see the glass half-empty or half-full? Do you see your part in making sure your relationships work or do you rely on others to do all the heavy lifting? What kind of attitude do you have?

Quite frankly, if you are a Believer, I have never understood a “Believer” with a negative attitude.  I just don’t.  A positive attitude is foundational to a Believer. How? Because you have faith in Christ.  That faith translates to trust—you trust that “All things work together for good” or you trust that “If He is for you, who can be against you?” Faith and Trust = Optimism. Optimism is positive. Your positive attitude will not allow you to continue to embrace anger, bitterness, jealousy, anxiety, worry, or pride; which are all negative!  These traits will not allow you to live a successful life. What will help you live a successful life?  Being intentional, understanding that changing from negativity to positivity takes time, and by asking God for help. In Philippians 4:6 we are told: “Do not be anxious for anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God and the peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  We are also told in Philippians 4:8, “…whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 

You want to be successful? Stop being the victim, stop blaming others for what’s happened to you, stop making excuses for not changing your life.  Remember, It’s Your Life, Own It.  It does not matter what has happened in your past, what matters is God can help you change your negative responses to situations to positive ones.  My question is, Do you want Him to help you?

What If…?

what-if-300x152What if people would really try to listen to one another?  What if we would truly seek to understand another person’s point of view rather than always trying to push our own? What if we would speak less and listen more? What if we would forgive more? What if each person would live their own life to the fullest and try to enjoy each moment of each day? What if….?

At times recently, I have sat back and wondered why there is so much negativity in the world today? It’s not just on social media and it’s not just with a certain group, it’s all around.  I have considered this a lot lately especially when I see things happening around me that seem to go awry without any real reason behind it going awry. It seems the smallest thing is blown into something big and it didn’t have to be that way if only each person would have simply listened to each other.

I have also thought about the things that make me feel good and behave in a positive manner and those things that make me shake my head and retreat. You see, if I didn’t retreat, I would get entangled in the same arguments I see others entangled in. I would be in the midst of conflict and confrontation which in no way would create a sense of peace. Just think about it for a minute; positive actions most times create positive reactions and negative actions cause, in so many cases, negative reactions.

When we don’t listen to each other, we have decided within ourselves to be passively combative.  Combativeness creates friction, which can come in the form of angry words, nasty actions and ultimately un-forgiveness. Un-forgiveness kills us slowly. Un-forgiveness feeds negativity.  The Bible warns against unforgiveness and tells Believers to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32).  When I read all the scriptures that tell us to forgive and also to not gloat over our enemies, (see Proverbs 24:17), I wonder if we have forgotten that God has called us to a different standard.   I am convinced that when we are so focused on others and proving them wrong, we lose sight of ourselves.  I don’t think that’s loving and it sure isn’t positive.

When we are focused on living our lives to the fullest; we experience exhilaration and joy; all positive feelings.  Judge Judy says that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason; to listen more than we speak. I agree. If we are to get over negativity, we need to change the “what if” to “what would” as in “What would Jesus do?”  Don’t let that be just something to say, let it be a time of true reflection when you are faced with interpersonal communications and actions.  Jesus can help you change those negative, destructive behaviors to positive attitudes and actions that will change the world.  How do you start: Look at yourself, model a positive outlook, strengthen and share your faith, and pray always. If you want to make a change, I guarantee, He won’t let you down.

 

 

Set Healthy Boundaries…

healthy boundaries After watching three specific incidents over the last several months, I decided it was time to write about healthy, personal boundaries. Certain situations started to really bother me, so I talked about what I was experiencing with close confidants and even a professional in the area of psychology.  I thought I would share my observations and offer suggestions that may help you understand how important it is to set boundaries.

I read an article recently and the author stated,  “I used to keep adjusting my boundaries to fit each relationship. Now I understand that boundaries are about your relationship with yourself and your own values, and that they shouldn’t be so fluid.” 

There have been times when my own husband suggested that I was being too closed off and maybe I should let people in. I should just be more friendly.   Also, I have dealt with pressure from others who seemed to pull at me and insert themselves all the time. Their boundaries were clearly opposite mine and I felt pressured to always be available.

I began to experience an internal struggle.  I found myself, asking myself, “What’s wrong with me? or Is it just me?  Am I suppose to adjust to everyone when I don’t want to? Am I being a snob?  If I have to adjust to everyone, and I don’t want to, am I selfish? Well, I was made to feel that I was. I wanted to know if I was just wired wrong.  Maybe I am or maybe I expect others to understand personal boundaries.

You know what I have come to conclude? Some people do not understand boundaries. You know what else I have found? If you do not establish them upfront, it will be hard to establish them later.  Eventually, however, you will have to create them. At first, you may suffer silently, but the more someone steps beyond your boundaries and you stay quiet on the matter, you will become irritated, frustrated and even resentful. If you allow others to push your boundaries and you say nothing, eventually you will fight or go into flight mode.

                             “In work or in our personal relationships, poor boundaries lead to                                       resentment, anger, and burnout” (Nelson, 2016).

Boundaries-2-2I get why we don’t say anything; why we let things go—we let things go because we think people will just figure it out somehow.  We think they will know when they are being too pushy, too needy, or too dependent. They don’t see that the constant need for you to be the one to fill all of their needs is emotionally draining.  So they go on  doing what is natural them and in the process they are killing you. It’s hard setting healthy, personal boundaries because people think you are being “mean.” Setting boundaries do not make you “mean,” it helps you stay healthy mentally and emotionally.

Do you know anyone who constantly forces themselves beyond your boundaries?  How do you handle them without hurting them? I am going to share some ways that you can establish boundaries, but I cannot promise you that you won’t hurt their feelings:

  1. Examine the boundaries that already exist (or are lacking) in your life. If you have them, enforce them from the beginning. If you don’t have them established, think about what you will accept, write them down, talk to a therapist if you need to, and live with them. Tell people what you will accept and what you will not accept. (Matthew 18:15-20)
  2. Say “No” simply but firmly to something you do not want to do. Do not feel that you need to explain” (Kairns, 1992). Not over-explaining is a crucial aspect of setting boundaries, as everyone has the right to determine what they do and do not want to do.  (Matthew 5:7)
  3. Keep the focus on oneself (IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program). Instead of setting a boundary by saying something like “you have to stop bothering me after work”, one can say “I need some time to myself when I get back from work”.
  4. Set consequences (IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program). This means that when setting boundaries, it is important to explicitly state why they are important. For example, someone in an unhealthy relationship might declare that their partner needs to start respecting their career goals more unless they want the relationship to end. It is also crucial to only declare consequences that one is willing to follow through on, or else the boundaries will not be effective.

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me.  A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins. Although I talked to several friends and confidants, I always go to the Bible to check my thoughts against the Word of God. I have noted scriptures above to help you see that it is good to set boundaries, but read that I read from Bible.org below:

The concept of boundaries is rooted in the nature of God Himself. God defines Himself as a distinct, separate being, and He is responsible for Himself. He defines and takes responsibility for His personality by telling us what He thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes and dislikes.” (Bible.org)

 

Dr. LaSharnda Beckwith

 

Works cited:

  1. Positive Psychology program
  2. Bible.org

Friends and friends…

FriendsI am one to sit quietly so that I can think and reflect.  I generally consider what’s going on in my current life; I think about what I am doing in order to get where I want to go. One thing that I have always made my practice is to take account of those who I allow into my inner circle and how to manage those I don’t let in.  You see some people think that every person they meet is supposed to be a deep and personal friend when that’s just not the case.  It’s just not!

I see friends in certain categories. You may not agree with me, but I will support a couple of my points with scripture for you that think I am being “un-Christian”  or “un-friendly.”

The first level of friendship and is the most important to me is the level I refer to as my Inner Circle.  It goes without saying that my BFF is in this group. Along with that person, these are friends that I have probably (not in all cases) known for a very long time.  Not only have I known them, we have shared values. Those values may be how we look at life in general, how we set goals and pursue them, how we see family and a host of other things. One of the primary reasons they are in my inner circle, however, is because they are TRUSTED.  We have gone through victories and disappointments together and I have watched them support me as I have supported them. They will go through the fire for me and I will walk through flames for them.  Those in my inner circle are closer than family members. No one could convince me that they would betray me and they know that I would never betray them. My inner circle is small and years have been invested in our relationship. These are my most trusted confidants and the people who get to speak into my life and influence it.

innercircleJesus had an inner circle too. They were His disciples, yes but even within the inner circle of His disciples, there were some who were even closer, or rather, he allowed to see things others did not see. These disciples shared in some of Jesus’ joys and sorrows.  Peter, James, and John were the only disciples allowed to accompany Jesus when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37). These same disciples were the only ones on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah (Mark 9:2).  Jesus even gave nicknames to these three. I didn’t say that they were His favorite, I am just pointing out that not all of His disciples experienced Him the same.

Then there is another group of friends. They are good friends too, but they will not be the people I will call on in a life crisis because I don’t know them like that. They are casual friends. We have a level of trust and we enjoy being around each other, but generally we do so just for fun. There is no deep relationship yet; we have not experienced life together yet. Casual friendships can develop into stronger, deeper ones. We probably share similar personal and professional goals and certainly share similar values. They are people I like and will spend time with, but we do not have anything concrete to build our relationship on yet. I may share some of my life stories with them, but the deep things of my heart will probably not be shared for a very long time.

Associations are another group of friends. You probably have some things in common with them, maybe your work or some social activity, but you may not have similar professional or personal goals; you just don’t know. You probably only know each other on the surface from some activity you’ve been engaged in. You don’t hang out, you just see each other occasionally. Trust isn’t a real issue because the exchange of personal information probably isn’t an issue.

Acquaintances will be the last group I will talk about.  You have no real relationship with acquaintances, you just see each other or know of each other in loose terms. You will say hi and bye, exchange pleasantries and if they need help, you will help.  Generally, you will not share any personal life stories, even if they decided to share theirs with you.  They may trust you because of your wisdom or some kind of expertise they think you possess. You may share limited information with your acquaintances because you have no idea what you can share.

That’s it.  I don’t want this all academic, but I did want to lay this out before I say what I really want to say.  Watch who you allow into your inner circle. Every person you meet will not be a close personal friend.  Watch what you say and who you say it to.  Just because a person laughs with you, does not mean that they will cry with you.  Just because a person is willing to share their victories with you does not mean that they will share the joy of yours.  At times,  some people maneuver to try to be “friends” with those they think can open doors for them.  Be real, that’s not friendship, it’s called jockeying for one’s own self-interest.  If you behave like this, just know that those who you are trying to get close to see it too

My grandfather used to say, “if you want friends, show yourself friendly.” He was quoting  Proverbs 18:24.  Be a good friend, but also make sure those you allow closest to you are also good friends because they will be the ones who will influence you the most.

I Ran In The Rain…

Running n d rainI ran in the rain this morning.  Did I know that it was raining before I went out? Of course I did. I almost didn’t go because of it. I opened my garage door, looked to see if it was coming down really hard, stood there for a moment, closed the garage and went back into my house and sat in the living room waiting for the rain to subside.  I sat there for a few minutes, maybe 5 or 10, hoping it would stop but it didn’t. I got up and went back to the garage, opened the door and looked at it again, but this time I decided to just go. So I ran.

I had to run this morning.  During my devotional time, I thanked God for the rain. I told Him that He had put this love of the rain in me; I didn’t know why, but I feel deeply that He did. Also during my prayer time this morning, I remember asking God to cleansed me and revive in me a new spirit. I prayed for a washing of my mind. I asked Him to forgive anything in me that offended Him or anyone. Finally, I remember saying to Him to create in me a pure heart. (Psalm 51:10)

As I ran in the rain this morning, I could hear myself going back to what I journaled earlier. At one point I thought the rain was dying down, for a minute, it felt lighter. I smiled and thanked God for that. I stopped at a red light and as I stood there, I prayed again for a cleansing and a renewing of my mind.(Romans 12:2) All of a sudden, an outpour began. I laughed because I felt God was saying to me, “Here you are. Think of this as Me washing away the old; the old feelings, the old filth and creating you new this morning.”  I accepted that right then and there.

James 4-10You may not believe in God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit, but I do.  One thing that is foundational in my faith, is the need to repent and ask for forgiveness. To realize that He is in charge and not me. When pride, ego, and self, or should I say, selfishness, gets ahead of my commitment to Him, I have to remember to step back and acknowledge that as sin too. Thinking of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I become small (humble) as I stand in His presence.  The Word of God says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.” James 4:10. So I pray for a more humble spirit and a clean heart.

Lord during this month of fasting, my He be exalted and we be humbled.