Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Extinguishing a Bad Attitude? 5 Steps That Can Help

Like me, I'd guess you’ve been there.  Someone did something - again - to annoy you.  And it wasn't just a one time incident; it was the latest in a pattern repeated far too often.  You felt like you just couldn't take it any more.

Now that it's behind us, let's examine how our thoughts may have looked:

If you’re a student, maybe someone on your study team didn’t hold up her end of the assignment and all the work fell on you at the last minute.  You had to drop EVERYTHING and complete her portion of the assignment or risk taking the bad grade.  If she'd had a reasonable excuse, maybe you could understand… but this was the 4th time this semester she’s dropped the ball.
Perhaps you got in your car for a heavy day of errands and tightly scheduled appointments, only to discover that your teen driver left the gas tank empty.  You can’t count the number of times this has happened, how many times you’ve stressed the importance of putting gas in the car, and you wanted to explode in frustration. 
Professional friends, is there an office irritant?  You know, the one who can’t adhere to a deadline and habitually turns in her work long after it’s due.  It's not all that bad, except for all of the reports you'd completed that now need modification because her information wasn't included. You spent an additional 3 hours on a project you thought was finished. She just can’t seem to grasp the obvious fact that her lack of attention to detail affects others.

We could list many other examples of behavior patterns that push our buttons and irk us to the point that we question our witness. If you’re anything like me, this is when our obsessive thought pattern kicks in and we find it nearly impossible to turn off negative thoughts and a toxic attitude. We wonder how effectively we can show the love of Christ when exasperation spews out of our ears.

My reactions seem to magnify most rapidly when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  The tasks I face every day are overwhelming enough without having to cover for others. Dare I admit this? In private moments, I’ve resorted to screaming and slamming. I sometimes snap at people before thinking. Surprising things come out of my mouth. There they are - a few ugly facts that I’m not proud to share. For me, these are the results of allowing a bad attitude to steer my actions.  
When our attitude takes a wrong turn, we can choose a different route.  

There’s hope for us, my sisters. I’ve walked through more rotten attitudes than I care to admit and I’ve finally identified a few ways to overcome.  Why should I allow my indignation to ruin my day and dim the light of Christ?  When my ire raises and I struggle to take my thoughts captive, I try hard to remind myself to step back and walk through a few simple steps.  

Keeping in mind that simple is not always easy, here they are:

 1)  Pray.
I know, this seems like an obvious, pat answer. I find it very difficult to pray while my mind swirls around an offense. I’ve noticed how anxious thoughts multiply and interrupt my prayers.  Before I know it, I’m no longer praying - I’m stewing on why I’m upset. Now, instead of merely feeling frustrated with a person or a situation, I’m also frustrated with myself.  This circumstance is NOT more worthy of my focus than the Lord God Almighty.  Why have I allowed it to interrupt my time with Him? 

 2)  Focus on the name of Jesus.  
Say (or better yet, sing) the name of Jesus - again and again, until your pulse rate slows.  It will, if you’re truly focusing on Jesus Christ, His goodness, character and supremacy.  Meditating on the power of the name of Jesus helps me look at my situation from an eternal perspective and realize it’s not the mountain of an issue that I’ve made it. 

You might wonder why I didn’t put this step first.  I’ve found that I have to fail at point 1 before I realize my NEED for point 2.  I pray you’ll learn faster than I and can start with this step. (I need this teaching as much as anyone, so point 1 remains.) 

3)  Pray again.
Now that you’ve shifted your focus to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, lift the matter in prayer again with a refreshed heart. 
  • Ask for forgiveness and the strength to repent 
  • Ask for help to overcome your rotten attitude
  • Seek a heart of love, and the ability to see others the way God sees them
  • Pray for wisdom on whether or not to speak into the matter and for the grace to do so
  • Quiet yourself and wait for the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  
  • Allow His peace to wash over you

4)  Remember how others (including Christ) have shown grace to you.
Read Colossians 2:13-14 and then consider the following questions:
  • When have you blown it, even repeatedly?
  • How did others react / respond? 
  • How did their response make you feel?
  • When did you receive undeserved grace from a friend?
  • How can you respond in a similar manner?
  • How can you reach out - with kindness - to the person who offended you?
  • How might this affect future incidents?

5)  Get to work.  
It’s time to end the pity-party and move forward. Fix what needs fixing, fully surrender the matter to the Lord, and put it where it belongs - in the past. 

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17 (NASB)

What did I leave out?  How have you turned your focus onto Christ to overcome an upsetting situation? I’d love your comments! 

Be strengthened today, by His Word,
Psalm 119:28


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