favorite verses, Inspiration

Responding to Negativity with John 21:22

Do you ever feel like you’re surrounded by negativity? Like no matter what you do, no matter how happy you try to be, you just can’t get away from what brings you down?

When I say “negativity,” I don’t mean the big, heavy stuff, like depression, illness, or the death of someone close to you. I mean the little negative things it seems like we should be able to avoid but sometimes can’t.

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I’ve dealt with this a lot in the last year or so, usually in the form of other people who are dealing with negativity in their own lives. They want to vent, to commiserate, to try to lift some of the burden on their hearts by passing it along to someone else.

It’s a difficult situation. I automatically assume people start these conversations because they want a shoulder to lean on or that they value my advice, and it’s great when that’s the case. I’m happy to be able to provide that kind of help, especially when it is truly beneficial to the person seeking it. And I love knowing that I can count on that person to return the favor when I need it.

But I’ve also learned that, sometimes, people aren’t seeking anything positive to come from their negativity. They just want to spread their negativity, and it doesn’t matter to them that it brings others down.

I learned this valuable lesson from someone who would come to me to vent, and any time I would say something encouraging or offer advice for dealing with her negative feelings, she would respond by telling me how nothing I suggested would help.

Then she would start asking me if I had the same complaints she did. She would start hunting for my negativity, trying to point out problems in my life that didn’t exist or make me hold onto grudges I’d let go of long ago. I could’ve been having the best day of my life, and she would make it her mission to bring me down to her level of unhappiness.

Needless to say, it was frustrating.

Even more frustrating was the fact that there was no feasible way I could avoid this person. She was a coworker, one with whom I shared much of my time because of our teaching schedules. Part of my job was working with her, and I realized I would have to create better ways of dealing with her negativity than trying to offer advice.

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While I was going through this, I stumbled upon John 21:22, in which Jesus asks Peter, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me” (KJV). It immediately struck my heart as a mantra for dealing with negativity, really for dealing with anything that distracted me from living the way the Bible instructs us to live.

The next time I interacted with this negative coworker, I avoided offering advice. I listened, I nodded, I said how sorry I was that she was dealing with such issues. I told her that I hoped for the best for her and reminded her that if I could help in some way, she shouldn’t hesitate to ask.

When she tried to get me to join in her venting party, I steered the conversation elsewhere. This was difficult to do. I didn’t want to come across as if I had no difficulties in life and could not relate to her, but I also didn’t want to get sucked into the negativity.

This strategy seemed to work, although I do wish I had a better response to her trying to get me to join in the venting fest. I’m still working on this part of the conversation for the next time I have to deal with this kind of negativity.

follow thou me

What really worked, though, was repeating to myself again and again, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.” I’m finding this mantra to be applicable to lots of issues I face, and I’ll probably elaborate on this in future posts. I hope this verse helps you remember the path you’re on and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed by other people’s negativity.

How do you deal with this issue? Any favorite verses that get you through it? Please share!

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