By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea (SWIM)
I again invite you to our continuing discussion on the topic “Attitudes.” One of the biggest challenges facing us today is attitude. If we want to see change happening, then we must first have a change of attitude as individual Solomon Islanders. Many think that “successful” people of this world have created their lifestyles because they were given more opportunities than others or they just have an extra bit of “luck.” This is a sad misconception in society and is simply not true. The thing that people need to understand about being successful is that you have to think differently than the rest of society.
You have to modify your thoughts away from life’s daily obstacles to the future you want and the solutions you want to create in your life. You have to release all negativity towards others and yourself and focus on the positive aspects of life. As you turn your thoughts from negative to positive, your life begins to transform and the world begins to open up to you.
When circumstances overwhelm us, we have a choice to make either to focus on God or to focus on our problems. When we look at the problems too long, we usually drift to either blame or self-pity. When life doesn’t go our way, we often become aggressive. We start looking for people to blame. But if we blame ourselves when we’re not responsible, we bind ourselves to the past and imprison our self-esteem in the dungeon of self-flagellation. If we blame someone else, we risk poisoning our relationship with that person. If we blame God, we lash out against our single most important source for help.
One psychologist puts it this way, “Only one kind of counselee is relatively hopeless that person who blames other people for his or her problems. If you can own the mess you’re in…there is hope for you and help available. As long as you blame others, you will be a victim for the rest of your life.” Sometimes things just happen; there is no one to blame. And even if there is, harbouring hate instead of offering forgiveness will do little to make things better.
We often think to ourselves that “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll eat some worms.” You might remember that little ditty from childhood. Perhaps you’ve even sung it when self-pity, the passive response to life‘s circumstances, sets in. Self-pity keeps us down. It makes us feel like the victim of an unfair world. It tells us that life, which could once be trusted, has turned on us. Our countenance droops with despair, and our hearts sink in helplessness.
Feelings of loneliness often stir up self-pity. We begin to believe the lie that nobody, especially God, cares and say that our problem is unique. No one could possibly understand what we have been through,” we cry. In this way, self-pity distorts reality.
Are you divorced? You’re surrounded by others who have been divorced and have made it through. Have you failed? Welcome to the club; not one of us is perfect. Have you sinned? There’s only One who hasn’t –the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And because we’re related to Him, God forgives us and beckons us to move ahead with Him as our focus. We’re often harder on ourselves than God is. Don’t be sucked in by self-pity.
The Apostle Paul in his typical style never tells us to avoid something without giving us something to practice in its place. In Philippians 4:8, he provides six thoughts to dwell on that will squelch the voices of blame and self-pity and help us develop a godly attitude. Finally, brethren,” he says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is of good repute, If there is any excellence,” Paul concludes , “and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”
Some people might call this a denial of reality, just the power of positive, but unrealistic, thinking. Not so. Look what comes first on the list: Whatever is true. God doesn’t want us to live in a dream world, where we deny the existence of hardship and escape into fantasy. Rather, he wants our attitudes to be rooted in truth.
Whatever is honourable. To honour is “to worship, revere.” “Dwell on the things that are worthy of respect,” Paul is saying. Not thoughts and images that are flippant, cheap, superficial, and shallow.
Whatever is right- whatever conforms to God’s standards. An attitude that reflects Christlikeness is one that conforms to the Word, not the world (Romans 12:2). Whatever is pure. This refers to what is wholesome, not mixed with moral impurity. Purity isn’t a synonym for prudishness. A high-necked dress or a pious smile does not make a pure person. Purity means that we have thoughts and actions that can hold up to the scrutiny of God.
Whatever is lovely. The best translation here is probably winsome. Maybe we need to work on this one most of all. How pleasant are we to be around? How cheerful? How enjoyable? Finally, dwell on the things that are of good repute. Literally, “of good report.” This is the opposite of a “that’s just-me-and-people. This is one of the things that you can take it or leave it attitude. People of good repute, though not living to please others, care about how they come across.
Yes, we can control our attitudes. Why else would Solomon advise, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Think of your mind as a safe deposit box. Every day, we make attitude “deposits” into that box. It’s not like a checking or savings account or a mutual fund. We don’t gain interest or receive dividends. We can take out only what we put in. So fill that box with godly attitudes, like joy, humility, encouragement. Forgiveness, love, and guard them. Don’t let anyone steal them and replace them with selfishness, discouragement, vengeance, or hatred. Hold on to the key.
You fill the box. You determine how you’ll respond to life. Some of us are sweating under the blazing lights of adversity. We feel stripped of all that matters and broken beyond hope. Our only reality seems to be the pain we feel. But we don’t have to give up. We still have our minds and our will. And no Reich on earth can touch those, if we belong to the heavenly kingdom.
Who’s in control of your attitudes? You or your circumstances? Are you beginning to take on the negative disposition floating around your work environment, or are you positive in spite of it? Have you forgiven your friend for hurting your feelings, or are you waiting for an opportunity to pay back? Do you think the best of your mate or children, or do you expect the worst? Are you defensive or cooperative? An encourager or discourager? Joyful or joyless?