Years ago, my sister-i- law had a medical emergency. She was bleeding profusely, but she still had the presence of mind to tell her husband her blood type. She managed to say, B positive. Her husband, worried as he was, replied, “I'm trying to be, honey!”
If only we could all try to be positive all the time, even in times of hardship!
This is a big struggle for almost of us. In fact, as Elder Holland said,
We should honor the Savior's declaration to “be of good cheer.” (Indeed, it seems to me we may be more guilty of breaking that commandment than almost any other!)
(Ensign, May 2007, “The Tongue of Angels“)
When we are so blessed with the gospel, why do we complain? Why do we whine, snap, moan, criticize, argue, embarrass, rebuke, gossip, and so on? Isn't it very clear that we are to be above that? Yet why do we keep doing it? And worse, why are our kids doing it too? (That's worse, because it means we're giving them that example!)
I recently read As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. It's a short quick read, but so true. It's been recommended and quoted by many of the prophets and apostles, and I figured it was about time to read it. And if you haven't yet, I'll make it easy. Read it free online here. It's based on Proverbs 23:7, which says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” This little book shows how what you think makes what you are.
In The Book of Nurturing by Linda and Richard Eyre, they gave a great example of a woman who had had a less-than-wonderful upbringing. She was determined not to pass that on to her children, and even though she was a little rough around the edges, she wrote a description of the mother she wanted to be. She read that every day, and soon she was that mother, because she had read it so much that it changed her thinking until she was that person. While these positive affirmations sound really cheesy, they really do work.
There are so many great reasons to become a more positive thinker. Norman Vincent Peale gives you a hundred great ones in his book, The Power of Positive Thinking. The Secret promises you success in all areas of your life. Even the YM/YW theme for 2007 gives you a marvelous promise,
…let virtue garnish they thoughts unceasingly, then shall they confidence wax strong in the presence of God, and the doctrines of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews of heaven.
This is supposed to be an education column, so here's the tie-in. The longer I teach my kids, the more I realize that more important than academics, is teaching children to live by the spirit. And one part of that is teaching them to be positive, and to have the faith, hope and charity they need to progress in this life and the next. I have several children who tend to see the cup completely empty. A be positive would be a better grade to earn than an A!
Unfortunately, there's no quick easy answer to becoming more positive. Nor is there a simple way to teach your children so. Obviously example is a huge part of it. If we get upset when they aren't positive, what does that teach them? I believe that if we want to truly live the gospel, we must make a conscious effort to become more positive. We have to do the things we're supposed to be doing, we need to pray, listen to uplifting music, study our scriptures, serve others etc. But more importantly, we need to change our hearts. And the only way to do that is through the atonement of Christ. Elder Bednar gave a wonderful talk in the most recent conference where he said,
Let me suggest that hands are made clean through the process of putting off the natural man and by overcoming sin and the evil influences in our lives through the Savior's Atonement. Hearts are purified as we receive His strengthening power to do good and become better.
(Ensign, November 2007, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart“)
Have a positive and thus happy new year!
Great article, Molly.
So, if someone wants to disagree…would that be negative? 😉
So, Molly Mormon, shall we re-Christen you Polly Anna? Is this one directed at your theater staff? 😉 Seriously though, great article, and, yeah, you’re right: we have the Gospel and we should be happy about that. I am, but sometimes being positive on minimal sleep and maximum hormones, while dealing with lots of little stresses is difficult. I’m working on it. 🙂 Thanks for the timely reminder.
In my mission, there was a Sister who always (and I mean 24/7) smiled. Nobody knew what she looked like without a smile.
One day, I heard someone ask her how she could be happy all the time. This is what she said – almost word-for-word, since it made such an impression on me:
“When I wake up in the morning, if I’m happy, I smile; if I’m not happy, I smile until I convince myself I’m happy.”
Sure, she didn’t have children and a spouse and the gazillion other things that weigh on our minds now, but there still is something very profound in her answer. I have found that smiling and laughing (and Lamaze-like deep breathing) do wonders, even if they have to be forced at first.
Can’t help thinking about Carol Lynn Pearson’s poem. I don’t remember it word for word, but the thought she pondered was this: why is everyone happy in heaven? And the answer she received was this: only to the happy do they open the door!
I’ve always remembered that. Food for thought. Direction for life. At least for me.
And now, lest some of you feel guilty for not being able to be happy, even when you try, I want to add this. Hugs to you. Don’t be discouraged, and don’t try to tough it out. My antidepressant lifted me to the level where I could choose to be happy and positive, or choose not to be happy and positive. Before that, I couldn’t choose. It was as simple as that. If you really can’t choose, there is nothing wrong with getting the help you need, regardless of all the studies that say too many LDS women are on antidepressants. As you make it a matter of prayer, the Lord will help you know what is appropriate for YOU, and that is all that matters. You have to be willing to take the answer, though.
He helped me along when I was struggling with the decision to take medication on a long-term basis.
I didn’t want to. As I prayed, a phrase finally came to my mind. It said, “If you will take the medication, you can be useful in my kingdom.” Wow! That was a soft little wakeup call. He was waiting for me to get my ducks in a row so He could use me! Not just in the kingdom that exists inside the chapel walls, but in the kingdom that exists within the walls of my own home. Being depressed wasn’t necessarily my fault. Not doing something about it was. I am a better wife and mother and Church member when I take the medication. What was broken in me is fixed now, and I can choose, like everyone else.
And I rejoice! when people call me Molly Mormon or Pollyanna! Because it is evidence that the medication is working. Before, I couldn’t stop being unhappy. Now, I can’t stop being happy. I can feel the joy Heavenly Father wanted me to feel all along, and it is especially precious to me because I wanted it for so long and couldn’t find it. It isn’t a high; it is just the absence of such extreme lows. I can feel the Spirit now; I couldn’t before. I feel functional again. And grateful.
I’ve got to run–taking the kids on a field trip today. But there is a point I’d like to make.
Sometimes being a Polly Anna can really do damage, to you, to your family, to your future. We found this out the hard way. We, sincerely, always looked on the bright side. We worked hard and tried to do the right thing and gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. We never took offense. Worked with people. Tried to be impeccably honest and respectful.
But, truly, there are evil forces in the world. There are evil people. I don’t use the term “evil” lightly. Being unable and/or unwilling to look at the reality of the world, to be able to see that other’s motives aren’t always pure, to see, in fact, that many people feel free to ruin others lives if it will elevate their own this blindness to the world can kill you.
I am, honestly, unsure how to blend the two ideas.
When someone presents an idea for consideration, I pick it apart. I look for the flaws. I try to find all the problems and loopholes. You’ve all seen me do that–and some people say it’s negative. I think it’s a POSITIVE thing, because I think it protects and prevents harm. I think it creates an atmosphere that is most conducive to later success. And I think it exposes fraud and deceit. But it’s usually not seen as “positive.”
This reminds me of Elder Uchtdorf’s most recent talk on having such great reason to rejoice as members of the Church. I think this is all different from just being a lala land Pollyanna, though. I think you can be positive and realistic. But it is a gift to be able to have that balance, I think. I know people who are not positive but are very realistic (almost too much so, perhaps). I also know people who seek to be so positive that sometimes they gloss over reality (which can end up hurting those who are experiencing a reality that sort of ends up being swept under the rug). I think the Spirit can help us have discernment so that we aren’t in danger of being taken advantage of, or so that we aren’t unaware of real problems that people are having that may need more than just a be-bopping optimism (I don’t think this article is advocating that, but I think you know what I mean).
Alison, I agree that it’s difficult to blend the two. But I do think they need to be blended. I don’t think it’s as easy as saying that analyzing something is either a negative or a positive. There isn’t always some harm, fraud, evil, or deceit to be exposed, ya know? That said, of course, it’s not always best to just gloss over something, and I doubt anyone would really disagree with that. The trick, in my mind, is figuring out that balance. And I think we each likely have different viewpoints of what ‘should’ be picked apart and what shouldn’t, which makes finding that balance all the harder, imo.
I’m an analytical person myself, and I have sometimes felt looking back that being too analytical can cause harm of its own. It’s a tricky balance, methinks, but again, I think it’s an important balance to seek for.
Alison, I don’t know if this will help at all, but I also analyze everything and separate into two categories: the good / instructive and the crap. My focus, however, is on the good and instructive. Iow, I try to separate out the crap specifically so I can focus and “dwell” on the good. I even did that when I was driving a lot in areas where the only radio stations were local religious programming. I would listen to the sermons and say, “Crap. Crap. Crap. Oh, cool, I hadn’t thought of it quite like that. Crap. That’s interesting. WOW; great way to phrase that. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. OK, had enough.” Then I would spend my free time on the drive thinking about the parts of the sermon that were insightful and instructive. I have written some excellent talks while I drove, and many of them were inspired by sermons from ministers that, frankly, were quite crappy overall.
To me, that’s the difference between being positive and being blind.
By the way, Molly, I loved what you said; thanks for the post.
From Neal A. Maxwell in the October 1998 General Conference:
“Real hope keeps us anxiously engaged ? in good causes even when these appear to be losing causes on the mortal scoreboard (see D&C 58:27). Likewise, real hope is much more than wishful musing. It stiffens, not slackens, the spiritual spine. Hope is serene, not giddy, eager without being naive, and pleasantly steady without being smug. Hope is realistic anticipation which takes the form of a determination not only to survive adversity but, moreover, to endure ? well ? to the end (D&C 121:8).”
This is what I’m seeking.
Haha, Spande2! I actually wrote this like a month ago, but couldn’t get my password to work to post it, so I wasn’t thinking of you at all when I wrote it! 🙂 I’ve just been pondering on this because I do have several kids where everything is just miserable to them, lol.
I am not really a pollyanna (or a molly mormon really, either for that matter.) In real life (lol) I’m very analytical and realistic. Yet you can still analyze yourself out of things. I do think we can be of good cheer without being completely naive. We can be happy, and have the hope that things will work out for the best, and if they don’t we can have a good sense of humor about it, that’s what the gospel gives us. It is stinkin’ hard, though, isn’t it? I must say I was a really grumpy kid. My mom had to have many talks with me about smiling – as I rarely ever did. And you know what? Life does go better when you smile.
I love that story about the smiling sister, Ray! A new quote to post on your mirror: Smile if you’re happy or keep smiling till you are! (might wanna make you throwup some mornings, though, lol!)
It is stinkin’ hard, though, isn’t it?
Indeed. VERY hard.
I am trying to teach my kids to be more wise than I have been…to choose to be happy. I have spent too much of my life being reactive, riding the ups and downs too much instead of choosing to be more constant. A constant work in progress for me.
My stepdad used to tell me to smile constantly, even when I thought I was! I didn’t really know how to react to that! But it is true that pretending to smile can turn into really smiling!
Thank you so much for this article! I’m positive that our household could use some more positiveness…and it’s going to start with me.
I have been working reallyhard on not using negative words, and being kinder to my kids. Remembering not to use words like shut up, or thats stupid ect. has been very hard for me. But being positive has been getting easier day by day. I am down to one major blowout per day instead of several! thanks for this article