In this week’s episode, we want to tackle a subject everyone on the planet has to face. It involves how to process through the negative events that seem to be going on around us. Negativity surrounds us and there is a reason for that. The work of darkness and destruction that is taking place is designed to discourage people from walking in the power of hope and faith-filled expectation.
But on a day to day basis, when you are constantly bombarded with negativity, it can slowly wear you out. If we don’t process through it with intentionality, we can easily be taken out by the negativity everyone else is facing. Social media and news outlets all feed on the negativity people are feeling. It boost ratings, makes money for networks and keeps drama alive on social media.
But in the long run, people are struggling with the effects of negativity. Depression is on the rise. Hopelessness is taking people out. Anger rises in the midst of negativity. The people of God need to rise up above this, so we can be salt and light in our culture. But how can that practically happen? In today’s show, we are going to look at this.
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How to Keep Negative Events in Perspective
Melissa: For me it’s a couple of things. Yes, I would say everything that’s going on in our world can be difficult especially because we are bombarded as you were saying on the social networks and the video clips of this side and that side and atrocities happening in the world and pulling on just your heart for humanity on what’s happening. Things are going south, what’s going on. You can jump on that trail and slip on that slide for however far it takes you or you can look at even relational circumstances. I know that I’ve been a victim to that where you go what has happened, what’s going on and you look and focus on the breakdown of something.
Melissa: You stay focused on that.
Mark: Or an area where you’re not getting breakthrough or an area that …
Common Responses to Negativity
Mark: … you had an expectation and it’s not happening. I think that there are … I’m going to lay out the main responses that people have. I see two of the big ones. One is that you go neck deep and then the other one is you just don’t even deal with it at all, but let’s go a little bit more narrower. One response is you join in with it because the hopelessness you see in others matches with what you have in yourself. The fear in other people, the fear that’s going on in culture and the world is in you as well. It’s easy to just join in with that, so the conversations. You can easily find these people because they gravitate towards the negative very easily and most of us can. It’s like you hit this lane and you can just roll into the world is terrible, things are going awful, we have a terrible President, we have a terrible school, we have a terrible city, we have a terrible state, we have a terrible …
Melissa: We have terrible families.
Mark: The economy is bad and realistically we look at America, we live in an amazing country and we live in amazing privileges, amazing opportunities that history never even knew could be even possible, but it’s so easy to fall into those lanes. Then there’s people that I find that they just sit quiet. They really just can’t be bothered by it, so they don’t do anything. They see people being negative or they see negativity going on, they see the darkness and they just become indifferent.
Melissa: Why do you think people do that?
Mark: I think because they have experienced it, observed it, and seen it and maybe tried to make some attempts. Maybe they started going c’mon, just think positive and they found it didn’t work. Maybe they’re married to somebody who’s really negative and they just go, you know what, they’re just negative. I’m not going to do anything about this anymore. I’m not going to engage … It becomes a very passive approach and sometimes it’s understandable because you go I don’t know what to do with it anymore, I don’t know what to do to help. You go quiet, you maybe ignore it, you’re passive, but really what it does is it slowly regresses you. You start to fall into the negativity yourself really. It’s just more quiet, it’s just more subdued.
Melissa: I know because there’s some people I look and I go do they even have an opinion about that.
Mark: Right, and most likely they are …
Melissa: They do, yeah.
Mark: … negatively filled. They’re just more passive about it, they’re just more locked up, shut down. I think that … I was listening to a podcast this morning and they were talking about turbulence in a plane and how people react. You know how some people get frantic and then some people just go internal and you can see them go into this place of shock.
Melissa: Right, right.
Mark: People can tend to do that. Then there’s the people that they can … These people can annoy me just as much as the super negative people and that’s the one that goes super positive. You can identify them very quickly because you’ll go … For instance, the story that we had that we just shared about Max, if you share that with somebody and they quickly go hey, but you had a great day together.
Melissa: Yeah, I would get angry.
Mark: You automatically know it’s that kind of person. They immediately try to make things positive as quickly as possible because they don’t know how to handle the awkwardness of somebody going through something they can’t fix right away. I remember even times you and I would share something we’re going through and somebody will be like let’s just try to think positive. Your reaction is you just want to smack them because there is this, okay, we didn’t connect and human beings have a longing for connection.
It really comes down to when somebody’s going through a genuine hard time. I’m not talking about pity and victim living where you’ve heard it, heard it, heard it over and over again. I’m talking about there’s a genuine problem going on and somebody can’t connect to that with you. It’s because they haven’t connected to their own pain and their own grief. I would like to propose another dynamic rather than the ones I listed as somebody who can absolutely connect to the reality that there’s stuff going on, but they’re plugged into a hope that sees the possibilities of how to maneuver through it. I find it’s probably the biggest challenge that we all face. Can I share an illustration of this.
Melissa: Please do.
The Stockdale Paradox
Mark: I have talked about this before, so forgive me. There’s an admiral, his name’s Admiral Stockdale.
Melissa: Yes, yeah.
Mark: There’s a principle called the Stockdale Paradox. It’s been one of the most helpful principles that I’ve carried that’s really helped me through …
Melissa: He has a book, right?
Mark:… some hard seasons. His story is written in a book, this part that I’m going to talk about, in a book called Built to Last by Jim Collins. It’s a business book. It’s maybe heady for most people, but it goes into what really … He wrote a book called Good to Great, Built to Last. It’s in one of those two. I think it’s in Good to Great, I’m sorry. Jim Collins studies companies and what makes them really great, what makes them stand out and be resilient. Admiral Stockdale was a prisoner of war and this is all off the top of my head right now. I want to say for about eight years.
Melissa: It was long. I’ll actually look it up while you’re talking.
Mark: Okay, and when he was brought home … They interviewed him and Jim Collins himself interviewed him and said, “Man, what is it that helped you to get through this time?”
Melissa: Over seven years.
Mark: Okay, so what helped you get through this time and most people think… The positive people would go you thought positive the whole time, didn’t you? He said actually the super positive people didn’t make it. They didn’t make it through the time. This is very telling to today’s culture because there’s a lot in Christianity of hyper, don’t talk about the problem, hyper, don’t talk about the issue, don’t be negative, don’t go there and it’s a problem. You can go into an extreme very easily.
What he said was the people that made it including myself we had this very deep sense of connecting and very aware of the problem at hand. At the same time and this is why it’s called the paradox because it’s two seeming contradictions that are actually working together, absolute connection to the problem at hand, but an absolute resilience, we are going to fight through this. I think that is actually the cocktail that makes up an overcomer is those two dynamics.
Melissa: Very true, right.
Mark: An ability to truly connect to because he said the people that got easily … They connected to the pain, but they didn’t do anything else, taken out, didn’t make it. The people that were like hey, we’re going to get out by Thanksgiving or it’s going to happen, don’t worry.
Melissa: Right, right.
Mark: They got taken out, too, because they didn’t have a capacity. The thing I really love to help people connect to is your heart is not made to just feel just good feelings all the time. Your heart is made to experience the gamut of emotions that go through life because we’re designed to be built to overcome something with the opposition that comes against us, the things that we go through. You are designed to overcome, but you can’t overcome unless there’s something that causes you to get the hit in the gut, that causes you to drop to your knees, that causes everything inside of you to be stirred up. I learned this principle I’ll say about three or four years ago. It’s been something I keep in mind all the time to maneuver through negative times because between social media which I’m heavily connected to and news media it is extremely negative.
Melissa: It is, yeah.
Connecting to the Pain, Yet Moving to Hope
Mark: People are getting more angry, more fearful and more black and white dark in their communication. I think we have to land into that place where we are not disconnected from the pain, we’re there in it. We’re also moving in a direction of hope and presenting that hope to people.
Melissa: Yeah, and I know I can get sucked into that especially as you’re watching the news and you’re trying to take a moral … I think that’s a big thing is people say you’re taking a moral stance. Especially as Christians we need to stand for what’s right and that’s all very true, but we have lost the heart capacity of love and compassion for someone else’s pain or what they are feeling.
Mark: That’s right, absolutely. We’ve lost the ability to know how to interact with people that are going through stuff. I think we’re moving as quickly as we can away from pain and into pleasure.
Melissa: Oh, absolutely.
Mark: It’s like I think the typical Christian today in America and some western cultures, this is the day, negative, negative, negative, negative input, negative input, negative perspective. At night turn on Netflix and tune it out.
Melissa: Shut it all out, right.
Mark: That’s a typical response from people because we’re not pain people. We’re just like give me the pleasure. Our investment … If people were to look at their finances and their time, we’re investing in as much pleasure as possible. Let’s go eat at our favorite place, let’s get our favorite drinks, let’s get our favorite movies, let’s get our favorite shows, let’s binge on the shows. We got it all lined up and we’re not making investment in time, energy, and money into things that are going to help us deal with the heart.
Melissa: Yeah, that’s very true. I think a good point that you always make with me and if you could help people understand this especially, too, how it impacts our physical bodies and not just our mind is what we are taking in we are not meant to have been taking in. The amount of things that we’re watching, murders, rapes, babies being abandoned, the things that we’re taking in in enormous impact of destruction in the world.
Mark: Very true.
Melissa: You say that to me all the time. I go oh, my gosh, did you see that story because sometimes I get a little too into it. You always say this to me and it’s very true.
Mark: I do think … I don’t know if this is a female thing, so forgive me if I’m …
Melissa: It might be.
Mark: … talking ignorant, but you’ll have news alerts on your phone.
Melissa: I do, I have them all.
Mark: Okay, and to me …
Melissa: I know when the beaches are to full capacity.
Mark: Yeah, and to me I’m like I would fry like an egg if I had that on my phone, like … I’m saying like a lot, like, um …
Melissa: Like uh.
Mark: Like so much. It’s too much.
Melissa: It is.
We Were Not Created for Information Overload
Mark: It’s too much for your … Okay, there’s two things that I’ve learned that God created our bodies for. One is he created us to know what’s basically going on around us, physically around us. Two, he created us for camel travel which is you get on a camel and you go I’m going to go to New York City. You get on a camel and it’s going to take you a while to get there. It’s going to be maybe a couple of weeks and then you arrive there. That’s not …
Melissa: Technically if you’re on a camel you’re going to travel through towns, you’re going to meet people and you’re going to see stuff. You might see some crazy stuff going on, you never know
Mark: Right, but you’re going to see what’s right in front of you and that’s …
Melissa: In between those towns you do have time to maybe rejuvenate your body and restore.
Mark: Yeah, because …
Melissa: Is that going too deep
Mark: No, it’s not going too deep at all. Yeah, you’re going to …
Melissa: Because we don’t, we don’t give time. I will take in a story and then I’m scrolling to the next story. I was telling you I watched a video of something really just heartbreaking yesterday and I wept over it. Then I literally flicked and went to the next story and got angry at the next one I watched. It was not healthy
Mark: Here’s what you were doing. You’re building negativity, but you’re not actually connecting to the actual story at hand.
Melissa: I did for 10 seconds and then I went to the next story.
Mark: That’s not connecting.
Melissa: I know. Well, I cried, tear, drip, drip.
Mark: You’re telling me you cried a 10-second cry?
Melissa: I think it was.
Mark: We’re having an intervention here on the show.
Melissa: Should I have even confessed that. No, I did. It was probably more like 10 … It was more than 10 seconds because I watched it. It was more than 10 seconds.
Mark: Are those alerts ever going to change or are you just going to leave it that way? Is it one of those things you’re just like … I’m just stubborn about it, I’m never going to change.
Melissa: It’s not that and I think that there’s part of me as a mom, too, that I go, okay, if a school alert comes up …
Mark: I got you.
Melissa: Am I justifying right now?
Melissa: Yeah. Okay, I do like to get the alerts. I get weather alerts. Hey, a storm is going to be coming to your area in 15 minutes.
Mark: This is what you should do. You should set your own alerts. You should make alerts on your calendar that send messages to yourself all the time. Here’s what you do.
Melissa: You’re right, I should do it in a positive way.
Mark: Here’s what you do.
Melissa: A declaration way.
Mark: It’s like anything else I tell people when they change their eating or change … Just start filling with the good.
Melissa: You’re right.
Mark: To drive out the not so good.
Melissa: Right, or when it says …
Mark: I don’t want to be black and white and say it’s all evil, but the not so good because you’ve set reminders for your day of hey smile, you’re safe, today is going to be a great day.
Melissa: That’s great, babe. I should do that instead of when I’m on an NBC app or a Fox app and it goes can we send you push notifications. Yes, you can.
Mark: he’s saying, okay, all the time on that. Yeah, you’re really designed to just know what’s going on around you. You were not designed to know Hamas just blew up this building.
Melissa: Somewhere in … Yeah.
Mark: It happened five seconds ago. You are not designed for that. You were designed to know hey, your kid’s not feeling good today, your boss was angry at work, or somebody accused you of something, or … There’s things around you that’s your capacity, that God designed you with. Yes, we have people that are presidents, that they oversee large scale things, but even in that there is a trickledown where you’re not meant to carry the weight of all these things and it’s very, very unhealthy. I think that we have to be … We have so much information available to us, it doesn’t mean it’s wise to have access to it. It’s there. It doesn’t mean that I need to be tapped into it. My phone has the ability to know what’s going on anywhere at any time. For instance, there was an app that I liked and I used it. It was an app that told you every time there was a missile being launched against Israel or a bomb.
Melissa: Oh, yes, I remember that app, I remember that.
Mark: It was designed for you every time the alert you pray.
Melissa: Yeah, I remember that.
Mark: I used it and I did, I did respond to it, but then over time it created a negative Pavlov dog thing where it’s beep, beep, beep. Over time that is like Chinese water torture. It will eventually start to wear you out and create a negative trigger. I was like in need a break from this, I’m going to still be mindful, still be prayerful, but …
Melissa: Because at what point … I think this is a good thing to talk about. At what point do you say I’m not going to engage that stuff, but yet we have a lot going on in the world that as Christians we need to position ourselves to intercede for.
Mark: That’s right.
Melissa: What do you think that looks like in positioning ourselves in that way just as the church body?
Mark: I think at first you need a healthy intake. For instance, I will catch the news at night. I’m starting to turn into an old man like my parents because it’ll be 6:30 and I’m like, you know what, I need to sit down and watch the news. I’m like oh, my goodness, I’m becoming like my parents. The kids are like what are you doing? I’m watching the news and the news is kryptonite to them. They’re like ah, ah, and they start falling apart and I’m like relax. I catch the first 10 minutes and I’m like all right, that’s what’s going on in the world.
I think first is having a healthy perspective. I think secondly is we have to have a perception where we can take in the things of this world and we can connect to the pain of it, like that hurts and I’m not just going to take my life for granted. I got to be thankful that I’m safe, I got to be thankful that for the most part my life is very safe. I’m thankful for the things I have, but I grieve for those that don’t. Then I don’t do this all the time, so I’m not going to talk like I just do this. I think I need to be mindful of the prayer and intercession that I need to be giving up because really that’s … Any bad news really should be to turn us to intercede and pray for and if we’re not doing that it’s not serving its purpose. Then for me though my life is a little bit unique in this. I spend my entire day helping people deal with negative issues.
Melissa: That’s true.
Mark: Okay. I’ve heard some of the deepest, darkest, awful stories of people’s lives that they’re looking for help for. I’m writing materials all on negative things, helping people to get free from them, so I have to have an extra dosage of very light material …
Melissa: That’s true.
Mark: … fun, so I consume a lot of comedy, I consume a lot of I have to laugh, I have to get outside, I have to have fun. If I don’t I’ll shrivel up into a ball and just die. Now not everybody’s like that. People still have negativity all around them, so I have the negativity around plus what I do is involved rolling up my sleeves into negativity and helping people get free. I have to have a … For instance, I don’t take as many people on in meetings as maybe other people would. Other people might take more. I only take a certain amount of people at a time, here’s what I have available on my schedule because I know for every person I meet with I need time to process that out.
Mark: Get refreshed and if I go speak places I need time to refresh, recover. It’s not like, okay, back to the … There’s that rhythm I have to flow in, that’s important. I have to anchor myself to the goodness of God because I know I’m in a world that’s dark and evil and the evil one is walking about singing who he may devour. My God is good, but he’s called me to manifest his goodness. God is not going to and Christians get this into your head, God is not just going to come out in the sky and just put his goodness everywhere. He’s going to do it through you. You’re the one to manifest his goodness.
I go, okay, if I’m going to manifest his goodness I have to find ways where I’m daily basking in that and I do that by Thanksgiving primarily. Thanking his goodness and declaring who he is, declaring who I am out loud with my mouth, so that my [inaudible 00:20:47]. That as I go through the day and I go visit my parents and my mom shares with me something negative or my dad is going through something I’m able to connect to that, be a vessel and then be available.
Melissa: Not be taken out by it.
Mark: Not be taken out by it. I think that’s what negativity wants to do is just steal your faith, so that at the end of the day you don’t have a belief system that’s ready
Melissa: Yeah, I think something, too, that if you could actually … It’s really based on that topic and help, I think, to expound on it just a little bit more for people, when you talk about having that anchor in your life and not getting sucked in. I think a lot of people start out though with negativity off a jump in their day. I know you talk about setting your mouth and understanding … setting your day on looking at stuff that’s positive and all those things, but what do people need to look at in their lives do you think when it comes to someone who immediately goes to the negative?
Recognize Your Negative Patterns
Mark: I would think that the biggest way that people can make this change is to first recognize, you know what, I’m pretty negative. I think that if you bring it up to somebody. Let’s say you talk to somebody, you say, you know what, you’re kind of negative. They’d go huh
Mark: They would get all …
Melissa: This is bad and it is bad and the countries and this and family’s this and I have this problem and you don’t understand.
Mark: Yeah, so it’s like first admit, yeah, I am negative and I got to stop justifying it. If you really want to do something about it … The thing that I am a big believer, it’s what helped me get me free from anxiety, from depression, it’s what helped me deal with obsessiveness is you have to structure your day for success. You can’t say … It’s like somebody saying I want to get healthier, but they don’t want to empty the pantry of ho hos, ding dongs, donuts and soda because they’re sabotaging themselves. I am a big believer and you want to set yourself up for success. The way you do that is you create an environment that is supportive to what you want internally, that create triggers, that create great handles to grab onto to grow into those things and so I have daily rituals I put in place.
Melissa: Yes, you do.
Mark: If somebody’s like, you know what, Mark, I really need this, I really need to step into this, the first thing I would suggest is do a negativity fast. It will literally change your life and I have a link I can put in the show notes to it.
Melissa: That is great, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback on that.
Mark: It’s one of the highest viewed pages I had was when I did a post on that. I took it from a guy named Steve Backland, but then I also made it my own and added some things I found to be helpful and useful. It will clear the slate and what it will do is it will realize that from morning to dawn you spend your day in negativity and then you wonder why you’re discouraged, anxious and bitter and angry. That’s because you’ve filled your life with it.
Structure Your Day for Success
I think that’s the first recommendation. The second is structure your day for a healthy perspective. Start your day off … Don’t wake up and just do the day. Have rituals that are in your life, rituals are very powerful if they’re used in good ways where it’s like, okay, wake up, I have a set of things I’m going to say out loud. God, thank you for this day, here’s what I’m grateful for.
There’s usually a couple of things I’ll do. I talk about what I’m grateful for, I talk about what God says about me and I talk about where God’s leading me. Those are pretty much the things that I’m doing. I’m not waiting for the day to hit me, I hit the day. I punch it square in the face, so that I’m ready to take on what’s taking place. We have to move from … People on social media that consume the news all the time they tend to be thermostats. They just read the temperature of what’s going on and then they replay it.
Become a Thermostat
Mark: On the political spectrum. If you’re Conservative or Liberal, whatever it is, whatever the talk is in your current level of agreement politically you just echo it. That’s pretty much what people do. They’re just thermostats and they’re just thermometers. What we need to be is thermostats. A thermostat sets the temperature that says this is where I’m going to head today, but it doesn’t mean la, la, la, la, la, I’m going to cover my ears because I can’t hear this negativity. It’s like hey, I take that into consideration, but I’m going to process it and at the end of the day I’m not going to let it have power over my life and over … Because I’ve set the temperature and my temperature today …
Melissa: I think that that point that you just made is it not having power over you. In anything, it’s like with what we open the show with with what happened with Max. We could go through many stories in our life of what happened with the flood, all that stuff that has sought to take us out, that the enemy has wanted to use to take us out and position us in coming underneath all of those things. We had to go, okay, yeah, you know what, this is tough, this sucks, but …
Mark: I want to make that very clear is that when that thing happened with Max I did not just go, well, we did our best. No, I was angry. I was straight up angry. Now what was I angry at? We can dissect that, whatever, but I let the anger……because I was upset and I can’t just bottle that and I can’t just go, well, and just snap into positive mode because I had to process that, I had to process that. You process it through tears, you process through talking it out and we talked it out in the car.
Melissa: We did, yeah.
Mark: We encouraged each other, we let each other express the anger, we let each other go through it. Then I did a thing that sometimes helps me, I said can we talk about something unrelated for a second and come back to it because I need to just let the fumes …
Melissa: Yeah, we do do that, yeah.
Mark: I don’t know what it was. I talked about some random story that I thought. Then we came back to it again. We didn’t just shove it and stuff it. We processed it out and, okay, and then I come back to it and then that night I sat down at his bed, prayed with him. He was still in a belligerent state. There’s I believe an enemy working in him against the things of God because we were trying to pray for him and he was like bucking the prayer.
Melissa: Yeah, he was.
Mark: Abby was praying over him and she’s got a really strong prayer life that she’s developing and he was like pushing her away. There was a real warfare going on.
Melissa: Yeah, it was.
Mark: It can be very exhausting, so we have to have a balance where it’s like I’m not all day God, you’re going to help us. I get in there, I fight the good fight and then I step back and go, okay, God, just show me strategy, help me through this, help me process it and then we just get back in the game again.
Melissa: We do, yeah.
Mark: That’s what the Stockdale Paradox talks about. I believe it’s what the Kingdom of God is about. I think Jesus cried. The greatest story is Jesus he wept at the tomb of a guy who was dead that he knew he was going to resurrect.
Melissa: Right, right, right, it’s crazy.
Be Able to Connect to Pain
Mark: I do not know one Christian who if they carried that power to just raise the dead like that left and right would walk into a funeral and cry. They’d walk in and go everybody chill out, I’m about to solve the problem and Jesus wanted us to know it’s not just about just raising the dead and being a superstar. It’s also about connecting to the pain because that pain is what God feels. He feels the pain of what sin has done. The damage is … It’s been thousands of years of collateral damage to what sin has done.
We need to connect to it and grieve it just like Jesus has, but then rise above. It’s that daily get down, you get back up, get down and get back up. Each time you get stronger and stronger even though you feel like oh, this is where I’m becoming weaker. No, you’re becoming stronger. Then you go out and you get out of your head and you go out and you help people. You encourage them. Get out of your stuff, get out of your shell and go encourage somebody, be a vessel for them, so that them being around you they feel encouraged.
Melissa: Yeah, I just want to encourage people, too. If you have that person and I think we all have had this over our life or you have it in your life that you get on the phone with or you get around and you go low with them. Either they take you or you take them and I think you need to start looking at those relationships and go, okay, I don’t want to lose this relationship, but how can we shift the atmosphere where we both don’t spiral and get taken out by what’s either a) going on in the world, in our lives, what have you, and start to turn it. Like Mark said positioning yourself to say, you know what, this is hard right now.
Be the one to put the paddle down to not keep the volley going of anger and negativity. To say listen, you know what, this is hard, why don’t you and I start praying for each other or let’s start changing or maybe there’s something we can get involved with and start making a change. Start taking a step towards turning that and not feeding that into the spiritual atmosphere. Not just the physical atmosphere, but the spiritual atmosphere of what’s over you and over relationships.
Mark: That’s right. That’s good. Excellent, excellent advice, I couldn’t add anything better to that.
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