The Voice

One negative voice aimed at me has the incredible power to drown out a thousand positive ones. One of the greatest things I can achieve is to never let it.

In my life, I have found this saying to be incredibly true. I’m an over analyzer; tenderhearted with deeply rooted insecurities and extremely emotionally driven. I loathe these character qualities (or flaws as I see them) and pray for change over them regularly.

Nevertheless I am who am I am. It’s how God made me.

I’ve found life is a bit like a conveyor belt when it comes to the people we encounter: there will unfortunately be a never ending supply of rude and negative people that come into your path, and it’s up to you whether or not you choose to jump off the belt and dance with them.

Don’t get me wrong. The amazing and loving people far outweigh the handful of haters. My family has experienced a whole lot of them this past week in particular. So why do we allow the ONE negative voice amidst a hundred positive ones to be the loudest voice in our ears? Why does one minor negative word seem to grasp hold of and have such a powerful effect on us?

Perhaps it really is just me (my love language is words of affirmation after all). But I have a sneaky suspicion that I’m nowhere near close to being alone in this.

Our brains are actually hardwired to cling to negativity. Isn’t that crazy?? Research has proven that our brains react much more strongly to negative events, as well as have greater impacts on us than positive ones; criticism a larger impact than compliments. And bad news draws more attention than good. As humans we tend to remember traumatic experiences over happy ones, recall insults over praise, and respond more strongly to tragic events than equally positive ones.

The real question is, how do we change this nasty pattern of holding on to the negative that we tend to follow?

First and foremost, we need to remind ourselves our self worth is found through our identity in God, and not in the hands of other people. How do we deal with criticism of negative people? TUNE THEM OUT. Jesus told his disciples, “It is impossible but that offenses will come” (Luke 17:1). Offensive and discouraging words are a trap into which we must not fall. Solomon, who prayed for wisdom and was given much, said “Take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear they servant curse thee” (Ecclesiastes 7:21).

We can’t control what others say, but we can control if we accept or reject their words. When negative people plant said words into our minds, choose to be mentally stronger than your critics. Solomon also said, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

It’s also our job is to always be kind, loving, and positive. I know that may sound overly simple and hokey, but positive actions retrain our minds and hearts to shift away from negativity and cynicism. The more we deliberately refocus our attention to the positive, we will experience it in real time. Criticism can’t kill us…if it had any real power to harm, the mosquito would be extinct by now, right?

Paul said it best, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Love is more powerful than hate; truth is more powerful than error; right is more powerful than wrong. So be strong, and of good courage. And don’t give in and join the ranks of “fighting fire with fire.”

Ultimately we need to ask ourselves who we want to please the most? If it is God, then we can survive whatever negative comment or voice that is thrown at us. If it’s people, then we will never experience the success of positivity. If we are waiting on personal applause, we’re doomed to experience discontent.

When I find myself in situations where I want to retaliate, I try to dig into the word. EACH and EVERY time I do, I find my answer. Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). Bless when cursed. Search for an opportunity to do something good for that person. Pray for those who criticize, and pursue the path of peace:

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (Philippians 2: 3-4).

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9).

Let the other person win. Sometimes it’s better to be silent. I constantly tell my children, it’s more important to be kind, than to be right. We as adults are in need of these same reminders. Jesus said, “Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (Matthew 5:41). We show wisdom, NOT weakness, when we yield.

To all you fellow people pleasers out there, Solidarity! Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make us feel inferior without our consent.” Don’t allow a thoughtless remark to ruin a whole day. Refuse to allow negative words to destroy your peace of mind or lead to division or strife. May God’s voice, and the voice of those who love and know us best, forever be the loudest and most prominent voices in our heads.

If it be possible, as much as lieth within you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

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