As a girl, I often heard the song, “Accentuate the Positive.” You can listen to many versions of it on YouTube, including those by Bing Crosby with the Andrew Sisters, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Paul McCartney.
While there can be a danger of being too Pollyannaish (unrealistically optimistic), there is a lot to be said for focusing on positive things. St. Paul wrote, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about theses things” (Philippians 4:8). He also wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). “Renewing our minds” can be seen as turning our thoughts to what is good, holy, and productive, and if you’re a believer, focusing on God.
There are many articles to be read on “negativity bias,” the tendency of humans to give more attention to negative than to positive things. How else would news outlets survive? We can be almost ghoulish in our fascination with the negative.
An illustration in my own life would be my lifelong tendency to take offense, to take things personally, or to assume the negative intent of someone. I’ve had to battle this my whole life. It’s a serious internal battle, requiring much prayer and refocusing.
Just the other day, a person in my life did not react in a way I had been hoping. An insidious little devil in me started ruminating on why the person “didn’t like me,” “didn’t trust me,” and on and on. Then, thankfully, another thought came to me, “Hey, wait a minute — earlier in the conversation, they smiled and said something positive. Why don’t I remember that, instead of the other stuff?” From training my mind over the years to reframe incidents and refocus my thinking, I was, by the grace of God, able to get over this incident relatively quickly. The “training” has included Bible study and help from a therapist.
In Isaiah 42:3, it says “a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” This was fulfilled by Jesus (see Matthew 12:9-21). We are all broken in many respects; perhaps some are more broken than others. Thankfully, Jesus is willing to work with us.