Attitude: Minimization or Amplification? How does your attitude affect your life?

There are a lot of quotes and conversations floating around “out there” about attitude and it’s impact on our lives.

I had the opportunity to watch two different Google Hangouts where the role of attitude came up. The first was a conversation between Robert Kennedy III and Julia Neiman, “What Success Looks Like.”  The second hangout, with Marc Schelske and friends, looks at, “The role of attitude in spiritual growth.” 

At 10:20 into the conversation with Julia Neiman, Robert asked, “What do you do daily to encourage or inspire yourself?”

Julia referred to a daily practice she has, “The 10/10 List,” where she spends time every morning going over ten things she’s grateful for, as part of entering into a daily, “Attitude of Gratitude” for the rest of her day:

“If you are in an attitude of gratitude, you are in the zone. And you cannot help but feel happy if you are grateful. When you’re feeling grateful and in an attitude of gratitude . . . things come to you, when you are grateful for what you have.”

I used to hear this kind of thing while I was busy being anxious, depressed, stressed, and miserable. The only things I could focus on that I had, were my troubles and difficulties. The disruption, pain, and chaos from my past, which had come to define who I was and was an ever present part of my existence.

“So, I’m supposed to be grateful for ______?!?” Fill in the blank with the problem du jour, and you have a pretty good representation of my attitude: incredulity, disbelief, disgust, and bewilderment. I couldn’t see the value in being grateful for the painful, difficult, unjust, and downright ridiculous issues I had dealt with most of my life.

I know a lot of people like this. I’ve known them in all eras of my life. People who hold onto their pain, contempt, disdain, and offended sense of everything that is wrong with the world, their lives, and the people around them. The critics, the victims, and the ones we tend to carelessly, however justified, label as manipulative, crazy, and hateful.

I had a conversation with my oldest daughter the other day about such a person. A woman who is my age, and the mother of a couple of my daughter’s friends. Apparently this woman uses, manipulates, and abuses anyone and everyone she comes into contact with. During a text conversation where she was threatening and abusive toward my daughter, she sent screen shots of the conversation to one of her daughters. When our daughters met up, the friend said something like, “She was completely in the wrong for doing that. But you know how it is, it’s my mom. It will blow over and she’ll be okay.”

She was really frustrated and bewildered because she couldn’t understand how this woman’s behavior could be excused or accepted in any way, shape, or form. She’s convinced that because everyone around her lets her get away with the behavior, that she’s never going to change or be different and that it’s the fault of those who put up with it and accept it.

I suggested that it sounds as if this woman might have some mental/emotional health issues and a personality disorder or two. Her response was rather explosive. The idea that people who have these kind of challenges being allowed to have a “pass” on disruptive, destructive, and devastating behavior, simply because they have a mental/emotional health problem and everyone else just has to be okay with it, is one which my daughter finds distinctly unpalatable.

For me, this all hits me in tender areas in my heart and mind, spirit and soul.

Matthew 7 3 5

Matthew 7:3-5
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
3 Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but not notice the log in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when you have the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite! First, take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother’s eye!

I’ve been this kind of person in the lives of others at various times in my history, in various ways. Every single person I’m related to and whom I love, have had these kinds of things show up in their actions towards myself and others.

How do I condemn another for something I can recognize inside of myself? How do I hold them accountable and not hold myself accountable? By what measure do I determine where to draw the line?

The position, or attitude, that focuses on the wrongs of others and external things as the source of our misery or happiness is one that minimizes the role we play and the effect we have on our own lives through our choices based on thoughts, beliefs, and experiences.

Like the overwhelmingly strong and powerful adult elephant in the circus who is kept docile and harmless by a braided rope, we are kept limited in our effectiveness, by the experiences and beliefs we gained from them when we were younger, weaker, less knowledgeable, and under the care and responsibility of those who may not have had our best interest at heart.

Sovann Pe on spiritual growth

We have the ability to do some self-examination and self-reflection to identify where our own limitations and boundaries are false beliefs limiting us, creating and attracting all the negatives we perceive as keeping us down in our lives. When we are ready to stop focusing on everything and everyone else, when we become willing to look at the log in our own eyes, that is when our attitudes and the things that form them can begin to change.

I know this because it is the path I’m on now. I am discovering that the more I adopt an attitude of acceptance, self-awareness, forgiveness, and trust the more powerfully I am able to accomplish constructive and positive things in my life and the more I am surrounded by others who are engaged in similar journeys.

What attitudes may or may not be working well in your life?

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10 comments

  1. Very well said and thoughtful. I find the more I understand my own psyche and motivations/actions the less condemning I become. On the other hand I also don’t excuse others who struggle with these things nor do I condemn. That’s a judgment I don’t have the ability to make. The one I am able to commit myself to is that I can identify the problem.

    Btw, you already know I tend to look at things from a metaphorical place, so my take on that “log-cum-splinter” thing is more practical. It doesn’t matter whether I have a log or splinter in my eye since both will impair my vision regardless. It doesn’t take a big piece of dust to render our vision blurry or interfere with it. So I don’t think Jesus identified the log as a huge issue in my own life by comparison to the other person. Instead, I think His point was that no matter what the other person’s problems might be if I have something in my eye period, my vision won’t be clear enough to correct it.

    This humbles and excites me at the same time because I see my role in life differently now. I don’t have to be the one to make everyone well, that’s the their job in partnership with God—just as it is mine to take care of my own slivers and logs.

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  2. When I was at one of my lowest points my therapist made me create a list of why friends and family were grateful for my being in this world because I was like you ““So, I’m supposed to be grateful for ______?!?” Fill in the blank with the problem du jour, and you have a pretty good representation of my attitude: incredulity, disbelief, disgust, and bewilderment.”

    I was then supposed to pull out their list and use it to help me see the world differently when I was down (everyday)… For the longest time I just saw what a good job I did fooling the world. But over time it did help and I’ve given the assignment to a number of friends who have had it work better for them earlier on. The hardest part is asking people. My friends have the advantage that I usually give them 5-10 things to start the list off and help them craft how to ask for the help.

    Great post. It is hard to accept that mental illness gives people a pass. And it’s also hard to accept that we frequently give our abusers a pass and expect others to do so also. The world is not fair and its really screwed up.

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    1. Tasha,
      It’s great to see you! Thanks for stopping by and sharing that.

      You’re right, it isn’t fair and the world can be a pretty messed up place, at times.

      Recently, a friend of mine shared this on FB: http://www.mountainwings.com/past/13141.htm. One phrase jumped out at me, “Will you see the beauty or the bump? The glory or the gory?”

      The bumps and gory things will always be present, but so are the beautiful and glorious things. I’m learning that often, the latter is only to be had by looking beneath the surface of the former.

      These are lessons that are possible to learn from the words and experiences of others, but not likely until we have reached the end of ourselves, our knowledge, and the limitations of what we believe to be true. At least it was true in my case.

      Thankfully, enough people had tried in various ways throughout my life to teach me or offer different perspectives, so that, by the time I was ready and capable of doing the work to change, I didn’t have to start completely from scratch.

      Passing on what worked for you blesses all – you and those who receive it, whether they do anything with it now or not. The seed has been planted.

      Blessings,
      Kina

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      1. I’ve missed you while in Internet hibernation. What good is learning something if I can’t share it?

        It is so much easier to see the bumps and gore. I read a book on judging others favorably and made a game of it with my husband. When we saw someone “behaving badly” could we come up with a list of reasons why we might have misunderstood what we saw/heard. One day I realized that I never did that with myself – I always judged myself harshly when many time my actions were not done to hurt. So now I try to remind myself that I should give everyone the benefit of the doubt including me.

        After the car accident I’m also more likely to see the beautiful things around me. I always thought it was silly/stupid that people who almost die would claim they see the world differently and when it did not happen to me I knew I was right. But then I realized it was a good 9 months post-accident before I realized how close to death I’d been. And now I’m more likely to notice the gorgeous day outside or the birds chirping… Now only if there were a way to get to that point without dying… And I wonder how long it will last before I take life for granted again. After all I’m still depressed, have fibro, fatigue, thyroid problems, migraines… At what point will those problems drag me back down? How do I hold onto having more moments of joy?

        Wow I’m really philosophical today.

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        1. Tasha,
          Wow! That was a lot. I understand where you are coming from, wondering when the things that ARE will rise up and drag you under again, as they’ve done so many times before.

          Two thoughts come to mind – staying present to be with and fully experience whatever IS in that moment, regardless of whether it’s joyful or not. The fact is no one gets to live on the mountaintop all the time. Life’s journey carries us to and through the shadows and valleys, but it also moves us along the plains, forests, and around the mountains. We may be more comfortable in some of the settings, and with some of the feelings/experiences, but they all are part of living.

          The second thing is learning to prioritize what you value over how you feel. That’s what’s working for me at this point.

          I love what you said about giving yourself the benefit of the doubt.

          Thanks for sharing.

          Blessings,
          Kina

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          1. Staying present is where I’m at right now but that is mostly because I’m avoiding online activity and people in general hich is making it easier even if I’m missing immediate access to some of my support system.

            I’m not sure how to prioritize what I value over what I feel.

            You make sure you are taking care of yourself. 😀

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          2. Tasha,
            I definitely relate to how challenging it can be to stay present and engaged instead of zoning or numbing out with distractions.

            When I speak of prioritizing what I value over how I feel, I’m not talking about ignoring or suppressing my feelings, although that is what I’ve done a majority of my life.

            I’m talking about the decision to commit to a value and choose a course of action that serves that value and to have your life’s choices reflect that value, even when you may not feel like it, for whatever reason.

            It’s something I’ve been learning in small increments over the past couple of years and I’m finally learning to put it into practice.

            Blessings,
            Kina

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