Do you know it’s possible to shift your perspective and change the atmosphere? I’ve learned from others’ experiences and my own that we have the power to create a positive narrative–one that’s hopeful and grateful; rather than negative and thankless.
I once made a noticeable shift in a conversation. I’d been meeting with a group of women and typically kept my thoughts to myself. I wasn’t asked my opinions so I didn’t offer them, until one particular day. A topic came up that I knew something about. A woman was criticized because she continued to love her husband after he’d made terrible choices that hurt her. She cared about him and hoped their marriage could be saved. I elbowed my way into the conversation, nervous, but emboldened. I said, “I understand her. It may not make sense, but in a covenant of marriage, there’s a connection like super glue. At least, that’s the way it was for me with my first husband. It’s very hard to tear yourself away from the person regardless of the harm done. I struggled for years to get over my husband even after he remarried. There’s a connection designed by God, that’s intended to last forever. It isn’t something that’s supposed to be easy to recover from.”
They didn’t necessarily understand or agree but they accepted my opinions. My perspective shifted the conversation. I thought to myself, before I spoke, what have I got to lose?
We can choose to go along with the prevailing narrative or we can shift the story line. Sometimes I’m intimidated by bold voices— I’m happy for the extroverts to carry the conversation. I realize now that those may be just the times for me to chime in.
One young woman acted in bold faith and changed the trajectory of her family. I was inspired by the way she listened to the Holy Spirit and altered the atmosphere around her. She’d watched her large extended family become torn apart due to a disagreement. She prayed for all of her relatives and watched for an opportunity to help. Her family needed a radical shift.
An event was attended by all the family members. They kept their distance from each other because of the rift. At a certain time, her entire family was required to meet together in a specific area to reach a joint decision. The young woman saw that as her cue. She quickly walked over and said to her mother and others, “Can I pray for ya’ll?” They were believers and couldn’t refuse, so she asked the Lord to help them forgive and get past their petty differences. She described a positive change that came over all of them. They gradually returned to the love and closeness they’d originally enjoyed.
Sharing our painful experiences with close friends is healing. I don’t suggest we re-write our stories to a rosy and perfect version. We need people with whom we can be be transparent and raw.
We can also frame hard stories with a redemptive bent. We can find good in our stories and switch to gratitude. We not only affect ourselves, but we improve the outlook for the folks around us. Our words matter.
I talked to a woman who’d experienced excruciating pain in her hip. It sounded awful. She didn’t have the funds for the treatment needed, so she suffered longer. Eventually a family member offered to foot the bill. As she relayed the story, her focus was on God’s faithfulness; how he’d blessed her by providing her medical care. She didn’t rehearse the pain.
When we reframe our thoughts and words, we bring courage rather than fear. Sometimes it’s smart to leave thoughts unsaid. We can choose a positive outlook rather than a negative one. We can find a redemptive element in the story.
A rather silly example is something that happened on our way to church. My husband’s driving sometimes bugs me. As I was about to share a “helpful comment” on how to drive, I stopped myself. He knows me so well that he could “hear” my thoughts nearly leak out. When he said, “What?” I said, “You’re sexy”, and I tousled his hair. I’ve learned that touch can cover a lot of sins. He laughed and I was glad something good popped out of my mouth instead of a critical comment that wouldn’t have benefitted our relationship and wouldn’t have changed his driving.
Another time, I switched my perspective about a certain relationship that’s become distant over the years. I long for deeper connection with the person and I pray for a change. But, I decided to be thankful we still have a relationship; we’re not estranged. The switch caused me to lean into gratitude rather than complain.
It’s easy to default into negative thoughts. If I live in a constant dissatisfied attitude when things aren’t going my way, I’ll make myself and others miserable. I ask myself whether my thoughts will bring life or death. Are they valid and encouraging enough to share with others?
I’d love to hear comments you have about changing your narrative. Have you ever altered the direction of a conversation from negative to positive?
“Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them.”Ephesians 4:29 The Voice