That is terrible!
That is the worst thing that could happen!
It’s downhill from here.
This is a hopeless situation!
This will never work out!
We will never recover!
This is not fair!
I have been hearing so many of these kind of phrases around me as people encounter their circumstances. There have been times when I have voiced the same kind of sentiments, though I do listen to my thoughts (and the words I express from those thoughts) a bit closer these days to see if they are really helpful or not.
Life is rarely if ever perfectly smooth and tragedies do happen to all of us. Grief is a natural response to loss and helps heal our souls. We must allow ourselves time to feel and process emotional pain. I am actually a compassionate person and can sympathize and even empathize with someone if I have shared a similar experience, but when I hear expressions like those above I want to ask the question, “Are you sure?”
Let me unfold this a bit by painting a scenario for you.
A young single mom is trying her best to take care of her little family. She has a job she doesn’t love, but it has benefits. Still childcare is expensive, and even though a couple of her kids are in school, their activities and school needs stretch the budget. Of course, she and the kids get sick here and there and she has to miss work to take care of them, not to mention doctor visits and consequent bills. She has a little home, for which she is grateful, but as it goes old homes fall into disrepair: pipes burst, basements flood, appliances break, pests invade, etc. You get the picture, right?
Some of these things cannot be ignored so money that might have been for basic needs or even a little bit of fun go to repairs. Her life is honestly less than easy, but she is hanging in there, loving her kids well and trying to make it the best home she can. Suddenly, there are rumors of lay-offs at her place of employment. On top of everything else, she might lose her job.
What would be your first response for this situation, if it happened to you or you were observing it in the life of a family member or friend?
Would it be this?
“That is the worst thing that could possibly happen!!”
Can I ask, “Are you sure it is the worst thing that could possibly happen?” How does that kind of negative thinking help her or you for that matter?
The truth is we don’t know for a fact that it is “the worst thing that could possibly happen”, do we? What if instead, it was a launch into a more rewarding job that she loved and that helped her more easily meet the needs of her little family? What if, as a result of the job loss, she ended up connecting with new people that became lifelong friends? What if a new job led her to move to a different home that served her needs better and where she felt safe?
The possibilities for it actually being “the best thing that could have happened” are endless, and yet it is so easy to only think about the negative, isn’t it?
What are you saying concerning the circumstances you are currently in?
Listen to your words and your brain chatter. Is it negative? Hear me, there are appropriate times for feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration, etc. but when negative thoughts permeate our lives we have a tendency to stay in a very pessimistic place and finding our way out becomes difficult.
So, when we hear ourselves think and say things like the opening statements, let’s turn them around and ask if what we are thinking is REALLY true and what could happen instead. From there, think of ways you could personally begin to shift the situation to the positive side.
I bet your day is better already, isn’t it?