Someone recently thanked me for being such a positive person. This is not the first time this has happened, but it always takes me aback and I never really know how to respond. Every. Single. Time.
I’m not a positive person.
I’m cynical. I think people are not basically good. I think we’re all doomed and headed for oblivion. I expect the worst. I expect to be hurt and let down. Most of the time I’m really on board with “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
But I get thanked on a regular basis for being so positive?
Parents teach us all sorts of things, both directly and indirectly. It’s what they do. They teach us the basics of life as well as the larger issues of how to behave socially and (hopefully) how to be a good person. My parents taught me two things that I think back on regularly – multiple times a week.
1. God expects Christ followers to work hard. Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatever the activity in which you engage, do it with all your ability.” The way my parents explained and lived this out was that working hard and doing things with excellence is part of how we live out our love for God. This means to give everything at work, not working half-heartedly. Do the work, and do it well.
2. Treat people how you want to be treated. Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” All of the do’s and don’t’s of religion boils down to this. Don’t do something to someone if you would be hurt by someone else doing to you. It’s that simple.
I think people look at me and see me working hard and trying to treat people right and assume I do it because I’m positive. But I don’t. I do it because this is how I was taught to be a good person, to live a good life. I can be cynical and negative all day while doing these things.
I offer people the benefit of the doubt because I want people to give me the benefit of the doubt. I offer people grace in their mistakes because I need so much grace myself. I recognize people have bad days and say stupid things because I have bad days and say stupid things. I respect people’s professionalism because I hope people will respect mine. I forgive offenses because goodness knows I offend all the time and need forgiveness. How can I ask someone to extend to me that which I will not extend to them? How can I ask someone to respect me if I offer no respect?
I don’t work hard at my job because I have such positivity about it. I don’t work hard because I need a paycheck (although I do need a paycheck). Sometimes I don’t even work hard because I am filled with passion. I work hard because God calls me to work hard, because my using my skills honors the Divine.
It’s not positivity; it’s working hard and treating people how I want to be treated.