I assume we all know at least one person who qualifies as less than positive. We can call her Debbie Downer or Negative Nelly or other names I shouldn’t probably say here. This person not only sees the glass has as half empty–but will likely complain there is a smudge on the glass, and oh, the water tastes funny, too. She will likely feel compelled to share her opinion of the glass and the water as if she’s providing some sort of public service.
Ugh. Isn’t life hard enough? Isn’t there enough bad news? Why nitpick? Why look for the negative?
I have a person like this in my life. She will not only notice the couple of extra pounds someone has put on, but she’ll comment on it . . . perhaps to them directly. Who does that? She won’t just notice the dust others would overlook, she’ll point it out to you. As if the one who gained fifteen pounds didn’t notice her jeans were tight or someone too busy loving her kids was oblivious to her house becoming a bit of a mess. She has the ability to see the negative in nearly every situation. Oddly enough, she seems unaware that pointing out these areas of imperfection hurts the feelings of others, even those she loves the most.
The whole, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all,” is a rule I try to stick to. I slip up from time to time; this person, however, appears to be completely unfamiliar with the adage. She is generous in her criticisms. It seems counterintuitive to me, and it can make me a little crazy and angry.
I feel like it takes a fair amount of work to remain optimistic in a world that sometimes feels dark. It is my goal each day to offer grace, appreciate beauty, and live with gratitude. That’s my jam. That’s my goal. That’s how I want to live my life. So this negativity doesn’t mesh well with me.
But it hit me recently what a gift this person is to me, because her negativity makes me appreciate my positivity. It would be foolish of me to look to her for encouragement or compliments since those things are a foreign language to her. She would be as uncomfortable in my land of positivity as I would be if someone asked me to speak Chinese. Her view of the world is much different than mine and I feel sad for her. What I see is largely beautiful. My glass is clean enough, refillable, and I’m grateful to have water when I’m thirsty.
Where she hones in on flaws and brokenness, I see potential. Where she sees someone neglecting their home, I see someone choosing their children over their home. Where she sees weight, I see engaging personality. She chases perfection and I seek connection. I’m largely blind to dust and extra pounds because I know that isn’t what matters.
Her way of life is too dark and heavy for me. I will choose to see the light and do by best to be the light. The world needs more of that. Not a one of us will achieve perfection–not even her–because we weren’t built for it. It is the “flaws” that make us human and interesting. Those are the very things that connect us and connection is what we’re built for.
She is who she is. I am who I am. Neither of us is going to change. I will accept her for who she is and try to see the best in her because that’s what I do. I’m certain my outlook is brighter than hers and my heart is softer and my life a little fuller because of it. But I’m allowing her negativity to remind me to keep looking for the positive.