Attitude Check

Paul Clark

 “It is ironic that one of the few things in this life over which we have total control is our attitudes, and yet most of us live our entire life behaving as if we had no control whatsoever.” (Tim Rohn)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:25)

I know from personal experience that it is not easy to keep a positive attitude. Recently in a Facebook Group for ministers a lively discussion ensued about the various reasons parishioners give pastors for leaving the church.  Some of the statements given by the “leaving sheep” were quite ridiculous and confusing. Other reasons were hurtful to my colleagues. 

Growing up I heard children on the playground often say, “stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Obviously, this rhyme is miles away from the truth.

The words that people speak, even to us as leaders, can cause confusion as well as pain. One of my friends in the above-mentioned Facebook group reminded us, “Every experienced shepherd should know that from time to time a sheep will bite.”  

Once, during a worship service in our first church plant in Michigan, a lady stood up and said, “We should give our pastor an applause for the great job he does.” The church immediately responded with a resounding applause. As you can imagine, this was very awkward moment for my wife and I. (Honestly, I wanted to crawl under a pew.) A few days later the same lady called on the phone to share with me that the Lord was leading her family to another church. Ouch, that hurt! 

I clearly remember one Sunday, just before church began, that I was personally having a very “bad attitude” moment. What was the reason? I observed that several families did not show up that day, who I thought should be present in church. Suddenly, I sensed my “bad attitude” beginning to interfere in ministering to the people who did come to church that day. Thankfully, I realized right off the bat, that my heart was totally out of order and I quickly clarified the matter with the Lord. This incident reminds me, how quickly a negative attitude can surface out of nowhere.

I read somewhere that life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. In other words, our reaction to any given situation is more important than the situation itself.

One of the easiest and most common ways to cultivate a bad attitude is to compare ourselves to others. Research indicates that habitual negative comparisons can cause greater stress, anxiety, and even depression. Another pastor’s success is not the cause of our lack of success. Here is an article I wrote once on the “comparison trap.” 

It is imperative that we safeguard and sustain a healthy attitude in our dealings with the people we meet and minister to.  In a great children’s film, Winnie the Pooh profoundly states, “It is the smallest things that take up the most room in our hearts.” 

With God’s help, we can demonstrate the best attitude through our deepest disappointments. Hugh Dawns writes, “A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.”

The words we speak can help reinforce a positive attitude. Let’s take every opportunity, when we think good thoughts about someone to bless them or encourage them with our words. “From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Proverbs 18:20-21)

Maybe today you are experiencing a negative attitude toward someone in your family, at work or even in church. It is not easy to quell a negative attitude but let us never forget that we do not stand alone in this battle. 

Recently, I have been thinking about the ‘Clean Heart’ song that Keith Green wrote and performed almost 40 years ago, based on Psalm 51:12-14. This classic song should be our heart’s continual prayer. Listen to the song!

Norman Vincent Peale, the “positive thinking” Guru of the 20th Century once stated, “A positive thinker does not refuse to recognize the negative; he refuses to dwell on it.” 

The Apostle Paul takes us huge step further, “speaking truth and wisdom into our lives in terms of “what” we should dwell on: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8) 

As the Nike commercial says, “Just do it.” Let’s do it today!