Are You an Upper or Downer?

by Bill Denton

"After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God'" (Acts 14:21-22).

I discovered the importance of healthy counsel in a half-Ironman triathlon. After the 1.2 mile swim and the 56 mile bike ride, I didn't have much energy left for the 13.1 mile run. Neither did the fellow jogging next to me. I asked him how he was doing and soon regretted posing the question. This stinks. This race is the dumbest decision I've ever made.' He had more complaints than a taxpayer at the IRS. My response to him? Goodbye.' I knew if I listened too long, I'd start agreeing with him.

"I caught up with a 66-year-old grandmother. Her tone was just the opposite. You'll finish this,' she encouraged. It's hot, but at least it's not raining. One step at a time. Don't forget to hydrate. Stay in there.' I ran next to her until my heart was lifted and my legs were aching. I finally had to slow down. No problem.' She waved and kept going.

"Which of these two describes the counsel you seek?"

Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants
(W Publishing Group, 2006), p. 65

Let me change Lucado's question slightly. "Which of the two describes the counsel you give?" We certainly do need to watch carefully the kind of folks we hang out with because we are prone to adopt their attitudes. Sometimes we need to mind our own attitude and our effect on others.

I've noticed that, while there are lots of folks in between, two kinds of "church folks" standout. There are those who think on the positive side. For them, almost everything is good, right, a blessing. Others have their minds locked onto the negative. For them, almost everything is bad, wrong, and a curse.

People in that second category leave a trail of frustration and destruction behind them. Nit-pickers destroy individuals and whole churches. The same people make the workplace a horror show. Their families suffer and sometimes become accomplices (perhaps because they yielded to the prevailing attitude around them). There is little positive to say about negative people.

It's okay if you don't always agree with things, like what's happening, or think everything is perfect. It's not okay if you create a negatively-charged atmosphere where you are the chief critic. If that's you, then you need a change of heart and a different way of relating to people.

Some people think that the way to deal with others is to gripe at them, criticize them, distrust them, and assume the worst about them. Lots of gossip and slander begins with that fuel. What a sad way to go through life! Even when you don't agree with others, or think they should do something differently, you don't have to become a downer.

By its nature, encouragement is positive. It builds people up. It congratulates them. It focuses on the potential for good. What's your reputation regarding encouragement?

Copyright 2007, Dr. Bill Denton
All rights reserved

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