The past couple of weeks have me on flashback to the old Saturday Night Live skits that feature the character of “Debbie Downer.” This character, played by Rachel Dratch, brought bad news and negative comments or feelings to social gatherings with a comedic twist to get viewers laughing but also relating–because we all have those people in our lives who personify negativity, bad attitudes, or are just plain perpetually cranky. And frankly, this type of person can be hurtful, difficult, and just plain exhausting.
As a young adult, I can recall encounters with people who were difficult. I remember how their words could cut to my very core with a single swipe of a pen. Other times, I would find myself walking the other way to avoid being dragged down by their doom and gloom. After my first speaking engagement at a conference, one negative evaluation out of hundreds of positive ones would leave me completely focusing on that one individual who “didn’t like me.” The lead pastor for the conference wisely told me that I can’t allow one person to bring me down when I was doing so much good for others. While his advice was true, it was much easier said than done. Because deep down we all want to be appreciated, accepted, loved.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. Kids learn at a young age that friends can be fickle. They grow older and realize people can be unreasonable and unforgiving. The face of selfish nature can reveal a side of people that we’d rather not see. As parents of adult children, we sit and watch on the sidelines as our beloved young adults have that first taste of a “Debbie Downer” who can quickly shut them down, make them feel small, or question their own character. Our parental instinct is to rush in with sword in hand to slay the negativity dragon. But wisdom tells us to be patient; to guide them so they learn to be a light in a dark world and to guard their hearts from people who try to suck them in–because we all know that misery loves company.
If asked, “What is one thing your mom taught you?”, my kids would most likely say, “Your attitude is your choice.” Because I told them this truth–often; I still do, maybe even more than when they were young. I believe there are always people who are going to try to bring you down. Others will try to suck you into the fallacy that the “grass is greener on the other side” so you miss the joy found in today. Every day you’ll encounter a “Debbie Downer” or a “Negative Ned” who will attempt to contaminate you with their attitude. It is up to us to choose an attitude that is positive. We need to encourage our kids to not allow people or difficult circumstances to drag us down. Rather, we need to empower them to speak up for what is right, to model integrity and a positive attitude, and to “live love” out loud.
In my research for writing some scripts this week, I came across a song that reminds me that in every circumstance, love always prevails. Listen to Brandon Heath’s song below. Whether it’s an encounter with a difficult person, a strained relationship, or an individual who is hurting, we can know that if we model the love that Christ modeled for us, it will sustain, it will heal, and it will never, ever fail.–CK