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I was a bit on edge already, and my class just started! I just couldn’t handle being exposed to the poison. I had a couple of weeks to prepare myself for what was to come and thought I was ready for anything that would be thrown at me. I got sideswiped by a poison that had nothing to do with chemistry, and it had the potential to knock me off my feet. I couldn’t get away from it, and the longer I was exposed, the more damage it was doing to me. I knew I had to do something.

Negativity

My summer college class started last week, and I saw firsthand the impact the poison of negativity can have on a group of people. There are about 25 of us in the class, and there was one person who continually spewed forth negativity about everything. With her untamable tongue, she interrupted the professor with rude commentary, and on our lunch break, she complained about the college’s academic advisers, our younger classmates, the lab activities, the long school day, the short lunch break, her parents, her job, the weather, and on and on.

She had a chip on her shoulder about everything. The world was conspiring against her, apparently. She talked like a victim that had no control of anything in her life, and she oozed negativity with every breath. It didn’t take long to see that no one wanted to be around her. We were all being infected.

Poison, in any form, is insidious. Sometimes it tastes sweet and goes down fine, only to cause problems later. Other times, the poison has a bitter taste, and even a small exposure causes immediate damage. This was the latter, and everyone knew it.

When I tried to turn the conversation into something positive, she didn’t even hear me but just kept on with the cantankerous tone. Unless I changed seats, I felt this “relationship” would affect my overall success in the class because it was already toxic. Cramming a whole semester course into less than five weeks in summer is hard enough, even without this type of situation.

Positivity

Have you ever been around a person who seems to brighten your day just by being around them? Their very presence shines like the sun, and no matter what you’re going through, you’re encouraged and feel uplifted and hopeful. Those are the people I want to spend more time with!

Since I became a Christian, I have made a purposeful effort to surround myself with positive, supportive, and kind people. I have made deliberate decisions to limit my interactions with negative, unkind, or rude people. It’s important to me that I fulfill the things God wants me to do while I’m here, and that time is too short to be weighed down by constant negativity.

I also want to be the kind of person who helps and encourages other people along in their life. I think that’s the kind of person God wants us all to be. No one who achieves anything or has made a difference in the world ever does it on their own. We need each other as we walk out His will for our life. God designed us that way. We are wired for connection.

If you think about stories you have heard of successful people, whether an athlete, a businessperson, an author, or whomever, you will almost always hear them talk about the PEOPLE who helped them achieve their success. Whether it’s a parent, a grandparent, a teacher, a coach, a friend, or a sibling, it could be any number of people in your life who profoundly impact your life that way. Support, encouragement, and positivity are powerful and life-changing.
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“God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 MSG)
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A Light

So, here I was with this woman. Was she just having a bad day? I have bad days too, but I really try my best to see the positive and keep a good attitude in the midst of challenging circumstances. This has taken practice, and it's easier said than done sometimes, but it’s a worthy endeavor. We all know it is going to pass.

I would like to say that I knew exactly what to do in class that day. I would also like to say that I stopped to say a PRAYER for her. That didn’t even cross my mind. Instead, I asked the Lord to help ME to avoid her without any uncomfortable confrontations or interactions. In fact, here I am complaining about her negativity, and the irony was not lost on me. Ugh! The Lord, very nicely, brought to my mind today (as I was writing this!) that I haven’t even said one prayer for her.

So, I stopped and prayed that whatever has brought her to this level of negativity, that the Lord would help her see the bright side of something in her life. That He would show her that hope and joy abound in His promises and in His presence. As soon as I prayed for her, my heart began to soften toward her.

Have you ever realized that Jesus often did things the complete opposite of what anyone else would do? I had to ask myself, what was I doing to bring hope and light to this situation? I tried to say some positive things, but when that didn’t work, I threw in the towel.

A Witness

As much as we see and experience the positivity and negativity of others, sometimes we forget that they see and experience it from us also! Maybe they see it right away, or maybe it’s over a period of time, but that light and positivity will drive the poison out. It has to!

I don’t always do the right thing, but as a follower of Christ, I hope that others can see that there is something different about me. Otherwise, what’s the point? As Christians, our lives are a witness to others that Jesus lives! Our light shining is a beacon of hope for others.

Have you ever stopped to think about that? Our lives are not only about us. Each and every day, we have new opportunities to impact and influence the people God brings across our path—positively or negatively. We do this by the way we love and interact with them. Not just when people are nice, but also when they aren’t.

I don’t handle every situation as I know I should, and I will be a work in progress until the day Jesus returns. I trust God daily to help me and give me wisdom to know what is needed in every situation I encounter, and that gives me confidence to know I can handle anything that comes. I am so thankful for His mercies that endure each day and for the grace that extends to each of us as we purpose to grow in Him!

So, I now look forward to my next class, not knowing when or if I will see a change in this person, but as I let His light shine through me, I believe that day will come.
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“No one lights a lamp, then hides it in a drawer. It’s put on a lamp stand so those entering the room have light to see where they’re going. Your eye is a lamp, lighting up your whole body. If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. Keep your eyes open, your lamp burning, so you don’t get musty and murky. Keep your life as well-lighted as your best-lighted room.” (Luke 11:33-36 MSG)
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Julie Larson
cfaith staff
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Author Biography

Julie Larson
Web site: cfaith
 
I am the managing editor at cfaith in Minneapolis, MN, where I consider it a huge blessing and privilege to work in ministry with my husband, Jon.
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