This week, I have to confess I got kind of annoyed with a sign. Yep. A Sign.
And all this offending sign said was, “Smile!”
I was taking out two of the boys to McDonald’s just to hang out when I was confronted by said sign at the register. Maybe I was just a little tired, but it seemed funny being told just to randomly smile by a sign that clearly had no self-awareness. I suppose that the management wanted to reinforce that McDonald’s was a happy place to be, but it’s symptomatic of an interesting trend.
People are choosing to be positive for positivity’s sake. It’s the whole act happy and your life will be more happy idea…
The flip side is that people complain about someone being so negative…
These ideas bother me for a bunch of reasons:
The whole fake it till you make it idea doesn’t really work. It forces people to bury the pain and gloss over what is really going on. It just promotes the inauthentic façade that separates people from truly understanding each other and feeling connected. It just deepens our own isolation.
Saying something that is negative doesn’t mean that everything is really negative. Sunday I had a great conversation with one of my incredible friends and I’m sure if you overheard what we talked about, it would have sounded pretty horrible. And we both left smiling and feeling supported (thanks, Brandi!).
I’m fine, but the truth is that my last year has been pretty rough between spending last summer carrying Luke around since he broke his foot, our car accident and the resulting fibro flare up, and all the ups and downs of fostering and now adopting. As I said, I’m fine, but for me to ignore what has gone on when I’ve been incredibly stressed just to be “positive” doesn’t actually make anything positive. It really is an attempt to control the bad things in life by pretending they aren’t affecting us.
Being real, connecting with others, and supporting one another is truly positive. Saying something “negative” isn’t the awful thing it seems especially when we aren’t saying it for the purpose of complaining. I think this is why I don’t even like the terms “positive” or “negative” since it distills what we talk about down to a really shallow level that makes connection and deep relationship difficult.
I think it’s gotten under my skin lately since I made the mistake of reading the comments on some online articles (not usually a good idea!). Some one said something a little more critical and about ten people jumped on the person accusing them of “being negative” and “not having faith in humanity”.
It seems like positivity is the new happiness that we are chasing and any negative Nancys are the new pariahs of society because we fear it will rub off.
It has bothered me since I have some friends who deal with a lot. I mean, a lot. Depression, mental illness, chronic illness, and relational problems kind of a lot. Never mind all I have seen as a foster parent. It’s already hard enough for them to talk about things like this and get the support they need and people are ready to label them as negative. I’ve heard people say “just be positive!”…like that will actually fix anything especially when I think these people are already heroes for how well the deal with everything.
It isn’t even scriptural. I challenge anyone who believes in thinking positive to read through Acts and the epistles and see how the apostles dealt with trials, particularly Paul. They were attacked, stoned, beaten, run out of town, arrested and imprisoned. Their joy in Christ jumps off the page, but they never shy away from what they have endured.
It’s what we’ve gone through that makes joy in Christ taste so sweet. He is good. Positive for positivity’s sake is really a negative because it leaves Christ and connection out of the equation. Without Christ, there can be no joy and there is a profound difference in joy and happiness.
Masking how we are doing with a smile doesn’t really help us encourage others. Masks like this just build walls around the painful parts of our lives and it’s hard to open up to a person who seems to have a perfect life. An imperfect person who has Christ as their focus, though? That’s how life starts to fall into place even when it still isn’t pretty. Christ makes real beauty out of ugliness.
So I think I’d take a real smile over a fake one anytime and real tears are always better than a fake smile. It takes real courage and I promise I won’t call you negative.