An Attitude Adjustment

Monkey wrench

I don’t think that I need to spend too much time making the point that bad attitudes spread from person to person like a virus from that monkey in Outbreak.

You’ve probably spent 15 minutes with hungry kids right?

You’ve visited the post office on December 22nd.

Ever seen an NBA game?

It’s almost impossible to contain a bad attitude.  This is because, in the moment, none of us will admit to having them.

When you confront someone on having a bad attitude they always have the same response don’t they?

“I don’t have a bad attitude, I’m just being realistic.”

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a “realistic” attitude.  Attitudes are positive, negative, or ambivalent.  Realism is a way of thinking; being a crab apple because you think you know how things are going to work out is an attitude.

See, you can be the world’s biggest realist and still have a great attitude in the same way that you can be a romanticist and have a terrible attitude.  A realist with a good attitude looks a lot like Mr. Spock, and someone with a romanticized view of pessimism looks a lot like…

…well Radiohead comes to mind.

As if denying our bad attitudes isn’t enough, when confronted with the Incontrovertible evidence of a bad attitude we immediately begin defending them:

“Well you’d have a bad attitude too if you’d had the day I’ve just had.”

“It’s not wrong for me to feel this way, I’ve been mistreated.” 

Don’t these gripes gloss over many people who have it worse than us, some of whom are working twice as hard as we are just to survive? Right now there are kids undergoing cancer treatment who aren’t screaming at somebody for getting onions on their burger or having spotty coverage from their mobile provider.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to feel a certain way after being mistreated; I’m simply saying that there’s never a justifiable reason to treat people as if they aren’t human beings.

Quite simply, bad attitudes become an excuse for taking our hurt and frustration out on other people.  In short, we choose to hurt others because we have been hurt.

Treating people with dignity is a responsibility that we never get to set down.  You see, it’s only when we are willing to lay down our supposed “rights” and “expectations” and pick up our responsibilities that we give God permission to overcome our negative attitudes.

When God overcomes our bad attitudes we stop the spread of negativity and gain the opportunity to demonstrate that the love of Jesus Christ has

Penetrated our wounded heart,

Permeated it,

and is Passing on to others.

In second Kings 6 we see this play out in the life of Elisha:

“Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, ‘I will set up my camp in such and such a place’… Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.”

At Zero Dark Thirty, what kind of attitude do you have? Elisha’s servant has the attitude and the response that I think I would have.

…“Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.  “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Elisha’s response is:

“Keep calm

and

trust God.”

In Elisha’s response we get to learn some very important attitude adjusters.  Elisha places his faith in God.  Right away the prophet declares that the servant should not be afraid, and the reason for this is that they are not really outnumbered.

“Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ …the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire…”

A negative attitude reflects the belief that what we can see is all that is happening.

Elisha’s righteous attitude came from a belief that God is working behind the scenes, and that God is faithful to work things out on his behalf.  This wasn’t blind optimism but a demonstration of faith that comes from knowing where he stood, not in relationship to the enemy, but in his relationship to God.

Elisha loved God and was living in obedience; when we live this way God consistently demonstrates that whatever circumstances we are experiencing are for our ultimate good.

“As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, ‘Strike this army with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked…And he led them to Samaria.”

The second thing that Elisha did was call out to God.  He specifically asked God for spiritual power to accomplish his mission.

“… Elisha said, ‘Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.’ Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.  When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, ‘Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?’”

What are the circumstances that Elisha is living in?  Warfare, hostility, combat.  Elisha is entitled to an attitude informed by anger and self-protection, but he reveals a different kind of attitude than his circumstances should provoke.

’Do not kill them,’ he answered… Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.’ So he (the King) prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking… they returned to their master.  So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.”

Elisha’s righteous attitude and Godly response set a new tone for two kingdoms.  The interaction between him and the king led to the interaction between the king and the soldiers, and the interaction between the soldiers and their king brought about new interactions between Israel and Aram.

Elisha submitted to God, his servant submitted to God, the King submitted to God.

Until we grasp this concept we will see it as our job to fight against people because “they brought a bad attitude out of us” instead of fighting for people by presenting them with the attitude that God has filled us with.

Our situation is actually very similar to Elisha’s isn’t it?  Without a Godly attitude we fall into bitter warfare with our bosses, friends, spouses, and kids.  We won’t be able to control our actions or our words.

When our attitude is wrong we begin waging war in an effort to get what’s ours, proving we’re right at all costs.  That negative attitude spreads from us to others and infects our relationships in ways that strip away any merit from the gospel that we proclaim.

In the end we forget we are dealing with human beings don’t we?

So what do you need to set down?

What words do you need to apologize for?

Who do you need to stop fighting?

More importantly, whom do you need to invite to a feast?

A positive attitude doesn’t guarantee positive outcomes, but it’s the only thing that gives it a chance. We don’t do it because it’s going to work every time, we do it because it’s Godly.

When we choose to respond to relational crisis with a Godly attitude, we step back from working our personal plan for a situation and we actually let God do the work.

This is when we stop filling a situation with ourselves, and we leave room for God to do a miracle.

“A soft answer turns away wrath,

But a harsh word stirs up anger.

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,

But the mouths of fools pour out folly.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place,

Keeping watch on the evil and the good.

 A gentle tongue is a tree of life,

But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”

– Proverbs 15:1-4

 

One Response to “An Attitude Adjustment”

  1. Sharon O May 10, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Great words of wisdom. Thanks

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