Tag Archives: Anger

On Having a Positive Attitude

When we are told to have a positive attitude, we often consider it either a wishy-washy platitude or an apathetic dismissal.  While it is true that such an admonition is used in both of these ways, I would like to submit that there is more substance in a positive attitude than what these common uses would indicate.  What is it that makes a positive attitude more than just a nice thought or saccharine shtick?

Firstly, our attitude colors our outlook on everything.  It is a psychological lens through which information passes as it is formed into our perceptions.  As such, it can sharpen or distort our perceptions, either allowing them to be more accurate or skewing them (sometimes drastically) away from reality.  Our attitude is the difference between taking a passing comment as a passing comment and taking it as an insult; the difference between having an open or closed mind.  It is also key to the phenomenon known as the “self-fulfilling prophecy”.  Our attitude affects how we treat people, which, in turn, affects how they treat us.

Second, our attitude makes a very real impact on the people around us.  As noted in the self-fulfilling prophecy example above, our attitude really is contagious.  It can be what helps someone else to, themselves, have a positive attitude which goes on to affect the people they come into contact with and who we may never see.  In this way, our attitude has a subtle effect on actions and interactions beyond our little sphere.  This wide-ranging influence is why the kind of attitude we have is a very important decision.

Third, in addition to having an effect on our perceptions and on others, our attitudes have an effect on our own lives and how we live them.  Paul touches on this idea in his letter to the Philippians:

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

-Philippians 4:11-13

Paul says that he is content no matter his circumstance.  This speaks to his attitude not as a passing feeling, but as a persistent disposition.  It is interesting to note the ideas Paul uses to convey his point.  He says that he has learned “how to” be abased, abound, etc.  This suggests that there is a better and worse way to undergo these things.  To bring this into better focus, consider the more mundane example of having a cold.  There seem to be two general categories into which people fall when dealing with this kind of disturbance.  One group accepts the cold for what it is and proceeds forward with life in anticipation that the annoyingly runny nose will eventually go away with the aid of proper care and rest.  The other group allows the discomfort and disturbance of the cold to take over their lives and dominate their attitude, inflicting undue strain and stress not only on themselves, but also on those around them.  Chances are that we’ve encountered both of these approaches to the problem of being sick.  In this case, it is clear that the first is a better way of addressing our cold and the second worse.  They do not change the fact that a cold is a bad thing to deal with.  Rather they speak to our disposition in a bad circumstance.  We can apply the same reasoning to a good circumstance; noting that we can have better and worse mindsets as we move through it.  This is the line of reasoning that Paul sets out as he addresses the Philippian Christians:  he has learned how to have a positive attitude in both good and bad circumstances.

As we unpack this further, we come to the foundation upon which Paul grounds his attitude.  He says that he can “do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Paul’s positive mindset is not based on his force of will when particular circumstances arise.  He’s not forcing himself to be happy or humble.  Instead, his mindset stems from a larger perspective in which circumstance forms a transient part.  This perspective is cultivated as we grow in our relationship with God and learn to live our lives with Him.  God, rather than being forgotten or relegated to a particular corner of our lives, is allowed to be a part of all that we say, think, and do.  We allow Him to provide comfort, to provide guidance, or to provide insight in the innumerable situations we find ourselves in.  Rather than being an escapist mentality, living our lives with God helps us to engage the people and situations around us in a healthy and constructive way.  Paul does not say that his positive attitude is based on ignoring his problems.  Instead, he says that he relies on Christ, who casts a light on the situation and helps him to proceed well.  Above all else, Paul (and we as Christians) has an unquenchable hope in the new life we have in Christ which surpasses anything that this world or Hell itself can throw at us.  It is this hope that strengthens us against the despair and cynicism inherent in having a bad attitude.

Although we often take having a positive attitude as a fluffy platitude anymore, I hope that the writing above has shown or at least helped you consider the idea that a positive attitude is something with substance that is worth taking the trouble to maintain.  It would be foolish to claim that it is easy to keep a positive attitude, especially when we are surrounded by a world bursting at the seams with negativity.  Nonetheless there is real value in this endeavor, for our attitude affects our perceptions and interactions with others as well as how we address ourselves to all manner of situations.  We make a difference in the world every day, whether we like it or not.  What kind of difference we make is very often the product of the attitude we have in life.

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Afterword

With the election drawing to a close this week with heightened emotion and intensity for many, we now find ourselves pondering what the future holds from here.  It has oft been observed that this election in particular has been especially polarizing and, in affirmation of this, it has also weighed heavily upon many of our hearts and minds for some time now.  However, as the dust begins to settle, our attention must turn to the matter of how we are going to proceed.  For, though the presidential election is one of the most important events in the United States, which greatly affects and shapes the future course of the nation, it does not negate the numerous other moving parts of our lives.

As Christians, we must not lose sight of the fact that even something as big as the presidential election is ultimately a piece in the bigger picture.  It is a piece that we, as part of the stewardship given to us in our lives, are required to speak to through casting our vote.  Nonetheless, after the election is done, the votes tallied, and speeches made, there will still be evils such as hunger, poverty, corruption, and injustice in our world just as there were before.  Our Adversary, the devil, will still be tirelessly pursuing our spiritual ruin and the spiritual ruin of all humanity.

For these reasons, as we return our focus to our more routine cycles, it is paramount that we remain mindful of the eternal aspects of our temporal lives.  The words of Paul to the church in Colosse are poignant to us following the election:

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

-Colossians 3:12-17

Paul’s words provide a gut-check that makes us look at who we are called to be as Christians.  It seems that this last campaign, perhaps more so than those previous, has tended to incline our hearts to hate and wish ill for others depending on who they did or didn’t support.  However, our devotion and obedience to Christ demands that we put off such wickedness and instead give grace and love just as we have received grace and love from Christ.  We are called to support and look out for one another for the greater glory of God, rather than give in to bitterness and hysteria.  This is an admittedly difficult task, given that our political views may not have won the election and that we are faced with sentiments all too eager to stir us to anger and fear whenever we do things like turn on the TV or log on to Facebook.  Sometimes we must take a deep breath and clear our minds of the clutter that so easily accumulates in it and distorts our perceptions.  We must not let fear or resentment govern our lives, for then we and we alone have robbed ourselves of faith, hope, and love.

Life goes on after this election, and so does our goal of living our lives with and for God.  As we move forward in our lives, we must keep our hearts and minds set on what is truly important and not lose sight of the God who loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that, while we were still enemies to Him, we might be reconciled to Him.  Let us then, in keeping with His love, continue, as ever, to aim at and uphold the heart and spirit expressed in the greatest commandments:

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,’ this is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

-Matthew 22:37-40


Depreciation

Depreciation can be targeted at two things, either at the self or the Enemy.  Depreciation of the self is a particularly delectable situation to observe in the flesh creature.  The goal is to get it to despise itself and make itself miserable.  Of course, it is up to you to set up the mechanism and get it started.  A great angle to go about this is to go for the beast’s feelings.  These make particularly good targets for a number of reasons:  first, they are generally uncontrollable.  The humans can learn to regulate the expression of their feelings, but they cannot help having them.  Second, since the humans place so much emphasis on their so-called “rationality,” they will eagerly jump to the impossible task of shedding their emotions.  Finally, humans are just as capable of learning from their feelings as they are of being deceived by them.  If you alienate a human from its feelings, you are able to affix another filter preventing it from getting any information except that which you have approved.

So how does one separate a human from its feelings?  Our social engineers have tilled the proverbial soil and made all the cultural preparations for us.  From an early age, they are bombarded with mixed messages about expressing their feelings and told what they should or shouldn’t be feeling.

We have utilized this in a larger framework when targeting the males.  We’ve led them to believe that real masculinity means being a hardcore stoic.  At the same time, we’ve begun to press them with the concern that they aren’t “sensitive” enough.   Thus, no matter what they do, they lose.  If they remain hidden under the rock of masculine stoicism, their repressed emotions build up and tear them apart on the inside while they fail at being “sensitive”.  If they try to be “progressive” and shed some tears, deep down they think that their tears are a betrayal of their masculinity.  In recent years, we have begun to put out a women’s brand of this strategy by playing off of particular sects of the feminist movement.

Similarly, anger is only to be expressed at certain injustices, but never at close others “because that’s just not right”.  Any emotion or expression of emotion can be taken advantage of.  The bottom line is that you should get the little wretch to be more concerned about regulating its emotions than experiencing them.

The fallout from this conditioning is that the flesh creature essentially smothers itself trying to regulate its feelings and conform to social standards.  With all this stifling and suffocation, the human becomes more stressed and uncomfortable.  It becomes difficult for the wretch to relate to its fellows and it becomes isolated even when standing in a crowd.  Singling the human out like this is can even pave the way for future temptations.  What’s more, the points at which it stifles itself become sore points that are considered best avoided.  Therefore, the little beast will dread engaging your installations, and even go so far as to defend them of its own volition.  All while you monitor the situation from afar.  On a related note, since some of the humans consider spiritual entities and mental constructs to be pure nonsense, they will refuse to acknowledge them.  It is important to nurture this belief as it will make them even more unwilling to address any emotional distress they feel and make your work more secure.

The depreciation of self is a self-perpetuating phenomenon.  All it requires from you is the proper care and tending.  One thing that distinguishes the incompetent tempters from the great ones is how they handle the step following the implementation of self-depreciation.  The incompetent tempters allow their appetites to get the better of them and haphazardly rush into alerting the flesh creature to its mental predicament.  Doing so allows it to see its thought processes for what they really are and a scramble operation must be launched to try and crush any resistance or any attempt to appeal to the Enemy for help.  Of course, these operations often meet with limited success and ultimately land the tempter in one of our fine incompetence rectification facilities.

The great tempters, however, know precisely when and how to show the human what is going on.  The initial panic created by this revelation is augmented by the liberal application of words like “can’t”.  With the proper handling, the human is soon sinking down to a despair from which they will rise only with what the humans call “a miracle”.  The force of the despair pulling down, combined with their frail struggles to rise can be used to warp or even break the flesh-creature’s spirit.  Doing so makes it more aerodynamic for our purposes and will also cause it to atrophy.

We now turn to the subject of depreciation of the Enemy.  The heart and soul of this technique lies in the manipulation of the flesh-creature’s beliefs.  We know that, unjust though He may be, the Enemy is by no means a foe to be underestimated.  However, it is possible for humans, and, unfortunately, even demons, to make this very error.  The difference is that when humans are doing the underestimating, we win, and when tempters underestimate, we experience a setback or worse.  We know that a full frontal assault on the Enemy is a gigantic risk and we only consider such an act as a final recourse in times of the most extreme desperation.  Given this, our plans are most imperiled when the Enemy becomes directly involved with the human’s dealings.  Would it not be wonderful if we could avoid this situation altogether?  We have not yet found a way to prevent the Enemy from interfering entirely, but we have figured out how to keep the flesh creatures from calling to Him for aid.

Since we, as pure spirits, possess empirical knowledge of spiritual things, the concept of “faith” is foreign to us and it is a testament to the ability of the research department that we now possess such vast and intimate knowledge of what it means to have, as the Enemy puts it, “evidence of things not seen”.  Let us begin with a very simple question:  what can you ask for and what can’t you ask for?  Can you ask for something that you possess no knowledge of?  Of course you can’t.  The ability to communicate your desire is altogether lacking.  Can you ask for something that you do not believe you will receive?  Once again the answer is no, and herein lies the important point:  the term “request” implies that you expect to receive that which you requested.  If you do not expect to receive what you have requested, then you have not requested it.  You have merely asked a rhetorical question.

Most humans know of the proposition of the Enemy’s existence and power, but what matters is whether or not they believe this proposition.  If the human can be brought to disbelieve in the Enemy, then we are able to gain the upper hand.  This disbelief can take many forms.  There is the flat-out disbelief in the existence of the Enemy which results in a mundane, but safe soul capture.  In some circumstances, disbelief can be used to produce a cultural Christian.  Simply put, the flesh creature will go through all of the motions of following the Enemy, but never believe a dot or iota of it.  If only we could make this the case for all of the Church!  At present, this is only the dream of a wishful fiend, but we assure you that with hard work and an unshakeable resolve, we can indeed make this a reality.

(c) Noah Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Taming the Tongue-1

Scripture:  James 1:19-20

We have more ways of expressing ourselves today than ever before.  There’s email, texting, phone, various chat services, letters, and face-to-face conversation.  This unprecedented level of connectedness is fantastic, but not without its drawbacks. Have you ever sent an email or text message that you regretted as soon as you hit “send”?  What about saying something you wish you hadn’t?  In the book bearing his name, James cautions us about the “risks of speaking” as it were.  He doesn’t say that we should never speak, but he does advise us to be careful with our words.

In chapter 1, verse 19, James advises us that we should be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”.  This is because, as he goes on to say in verse 20, “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God”.  The first thing we should be concerned with is listening. After all, how do we know what to say if we don’t know what’s going on?  Also, not talking does not count as listening. Listening is taking the time to hear and understand the other person.  Many times we busy ourselves with how to make our next point instead of hearing what the other person has to say.  Consider our relationship with God.  One of the ways God expresses His love for us is the incredible amount of time He spends listening to us.  No matter what we have to say or when we say it, He is always happy to listen to His son or daughter.  We sometimes say that the love we show to others comes from the overflow of God’s love in our hearts.  Perhaps we might also share the overflow of God’s willingness to listen as well?

After we have really listened, we can speak.  Now that we at least know what the other person is saying, we can respond in an appropriate manner.  Another reason that speaking comes second to listening is that it is very easy for speaking to become a selfish activity.  In other words, it is easy for us to speak just to hear ourselves talk.  Consider this:  if speaking is first on our list, why is it first?   Could it also be the case that we sometimes talk because we are seeking the praise and admiration of others?

Finally, James says that we should be slow to wrath.  Anger is a normal and healthy emotion, but, like anything else, misusing it leads to trouble. A person could very well ask “how am I supposed to not get angry?”  After all, we all have things that infuriate us or know people that never fail to agitate us.  An important thing to realize is that there are things that you cannot change overnight. There is no magic “don’t get angry” button.  However there are ways of proceeding that make being “slow to wrath” a less daunting affair.  First, recognize the difference between acknowledging an emotion and acting on it. We don’t have to do anything in order to recognize that we’re angry.  When we’re able to recognize that we’re angry, we can acknowledge our anger and ask ourselves why we’re angry.  Once we know why we’re angry, we can determine whether or not our anger is godly and then proceed accordingly.  By taking time to reflect on our emotions we can be less likely to do or say something we are going to regret later.  In short, we can roughly divide anger into two categories.  There is godly anger:  anger that is an appropriate response sin and injustice; and there is ungodly anger:  anger that is based in sin (i.e. pride, jealousy, etc.)  James warns us to be slow to anger so that we don’t rush into ungodly anger.

One of the reasons are told to be very weary of the tongue is because it only takes a moment to utter a single word, but that word is not so easily taken back once spoken.  James advises us to set priorities to help us avoid making these mistakes.  We should listen first, talk second, and be slow to anger.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. Think about the people in your social groups; are the most popular people the ones who talk the most or who listen the most?
  2. How is anger portrayed in popular culture and media?
  3. Why is it so hard to not act on our anger?
  4. How can our relationship with God affect our efforts to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to wrath?