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Focus on the Positive

Be a positive person: Say affirming, positive words daily

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: Are you a positive person? Do you look for and focus on the positive, saying positive words, or do you focus on the negative? Philippians 4:8 shows us how to be a positive person—how to “think about such things.”

Part 1 of a 3-part series on “Changing Your Attitudes”

Part 2      Part 3

Do you focus on the positive or the negative?

I used to focus on the negative much of the time, both in my thought life and in my words. When I was with my family or employees, I often made critical comments or suggestions about how they could do things differently or more efficiently. At the time, I didn’t think I was being negative. I thought I was being honest and helpful.

But the end result of my suggestions, feedback, critical comments, and “honesty” was that sometimes my family felt discouraged or my employees felt disrespected. After observing the results, I realized I needed to make changes in my approach and attitude.

How about you? Are you a positive person or a negative person?

Do you focus on the positive or the negative in your thought life and words? Do you mainly say positive words or negative words? Do you bring joy into your relationships with others, or do you bring gloom?

If you’re like many people, you might focus on the negative in your thoughts about:

  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Your spouse, children, or parents
  • Other relatives
  • Coworkers
  • Your pastor
  • Politicians
  • Wealthy people
  • Sports teams
  • People of a different race than yours
  • Sports referees
  • Non-Christians

Note: This Bible study focuses on being positive, not negative, with others. Many of us also need to overcome negative thoughts about ourselves. If this describes you, you can find help in Bible studies about God’s forgiveness and love.

Make it personal

1. Are you a positive person? How often do you focus on the positive? How much time do you focus on the negative? Explain your answer.

2. Review the previous list. Do you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about any of these people? Explain your answer.

Turn to the Bible

It’s easy to slip into focusing on the negative. We may constantly complain about politics, society, or our church. Or we may frequently criticize the people around us.

But that’s not how God wants us to live.  Although we need to be ready to deal with problems from time to time, our over-all attitude should be to focus on the positive. I love Paul’s instructions in Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

You can change

If you focus on the negative, don’t say, “I’m just a worrier. I was born that way.” Or, “If you knew my spouse (or my parents, neighbors, boss, or someone else), you would understand why I’m so negative.”

It can be hard to be a positive person. Everyone you know is imperfect, so there’s always something you could criticize. Not only that, social media and Internet news keeps us up-to-date on countless crises and tragedies every day. Politicians upset us.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a positive person. As you grow closer to Christ, he wants you to become an encouraging, positive person, both in your thought life and in your words.

Ask God to help you be a positive person. Spend time in his word. Pray throughout the day.

Let me invite you to join me in praying this prayer that David wrote thousands of years ago:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Related: Focus on changes you should make, not changes others should make

Focus on the positive in your thoughts

I used to think that thoughts just enter our mind, and that there was nothing we could do about this. Then I read Philippians 4:8, the verse you read earlier in this Bible study, and it revolutionized my life. It showed me that I can choose what I think about.

Let’s look at this verse again:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Notice that Paul wrote “think about such things.” When he wrote “think about,” he showed us that we can direct or control what we think about. We can choose to focus on the positive.

This verse can be life-changing. Write it out and post it where you will see it regularly—on your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or smartphone. Remind yourself about it often.

Make it your goal to change your thought patterns—to notice and think about positive things that others do and pay less attention to the negative things.

Ask God to help you put Philippians 4:8 into practice. You will discover that with his help you can control the way you think, choosing to focus on some thoughts and reject others. In other words, you can train yourself to focus on the positive, not the negative. You can become a positive person!

Make it personal

3. What are two negative thought patterns you want to eliminate? Explain why you want to change them.

4. Take a minute to pray, asking God to help you substitute positive thoughts for your negative thoughts.

“Catch people being good.”

I once read a parenting book that said “catch your children being good.” That advice helped me a lot. Before I read that, I usually looked for things my kids did wrong. After I read that, I started to look for things they did well, and I made it a point to say positive words. In other words, to compliment them.

I try to practice the same principle, ”catching people being good,” in all my relationships—in my marriage, on the job, at church, and with others. I make it a goal to train myself to notice things others do well.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:19)

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)

Related: Replace irritation with grace

You may have trouble seeing the positive in some people. However, you can train yourself to identify positives. Here is a short list of things you can look for to get started:

  • Accomplishments at work
  • Home decorating
  • Parenting skills
  • Athletic abilities
  • Desire to grow in Christ
  • Desire to be a good person
  • Good ideas
  • Skill at a hobby
  • Singing
  • Skill with a musical instrument
  • Knowledge of the Scriptures
  • Sense of humor
  • Ability to get along with others
  • Artistic ability
  • Gardening
  • Skill with computers or smartphones

Make it personal

5. Describe two positive things about someone you know. Explain why you chose these two things. Now make a plan to praise them.

Pray more, criticize less.

I still notice other people’s faults or things I think they should do differently. Instead of letting these thoughts consume me, and instead of always saying something, I usually pray for people to overcome their faults and grow closer to God.

Make it personal

6. Do you agree that it’s a good idea to pray for people to overcome their faults instead of getting upset or judgmental? Why or why not?

Focus on the positive in your words

When you talk with people, you make a series of choices about what subjects to discuss, what memories to share, what points to make, and what words to use.

There are always negative words you could say, but there also are positive word you could say. Choose words that can bring healing and life to those around you.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

Stay aware. Listen to what you say. Be sure you make many more positive comments than negative ones. Remember to compliment or praise others often.

Related: Encourage others

Discuss problems as a friend

There are times when we need to discuss difficult topics. Be willing to talk about problems or (sometimes) make suggestions, but discipline yourself to speak in a courteous, friendly manner.

The key is to replace a critical attitude with loving concern. Even if you think you should point something out or make a suggestion, ask God to help you talk with love, not condemnation.

Related: Resolve conflicts with love and wisdom

Related: Love other people as-is

Make it personal

7. What is one way you will try to be a positive person over the next two days? How will you remind yourself?

Memory verse

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Personal application

1. Are you a positive person? Do you normally think about other people’s positive traits or their negative traits? Explain your answer.

2. Is it possible to train yourself to think positively? Why or why not?

3. Describe someone you often have negative thoughts about.

4. Pray, asking God to help you replace your negative thoughts about that person with concern for him or her.

5. Now ask God to help this person overcome any personal problems or sins.

6. What is one verse that encourages you to focus about the positive?

7. Explain why you chose this verse.

8. Make a plan to say positive words at least twice as often as you say negative words in the next twenty-four hours.

9. How will you keep track of how successful you are at being a positive person?

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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