The Smog of Negativity, Or Love Like An Ox

It finally snowed here. It came out of nowhere and caught the whole region by surprise. January was unseasonably and unbelievably warm – often hitting the 50’s or 60’s during the day. This was stunning because it snowed gobs in November and December and because my first January in Oregon snowed every single day. It is so nice to have it back. I know plenty of people back east hated it, and I am happy to take it off their hands.

I have two jobs – I work one of them overnight. I only work a mile from home, so I try to bike whenever possible. Monday night’s choice to ride was a fateful one as the ride home in the morning was in 9 inches of snow.

I was downtown pushing through the slush when a woman rolled down her window, stuck her head out and yelled “You’re an idiot!” I was stunned! Partially because I didn’t come up with it fast enough and partially because I try to hold my tongue I didn’t deliver what I wanted to in return: “Oh yeah, well, you’re a jerk!”

That encounter stuck with me. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I was angry she was judging me without even knowing the context, I was angry she would judge me period for riding a bike (we live in a huge biking community). I was angry she was just so mean about it. I had a chip on my shoulder for half the day after that, I felt on edge.

My wife and I had a similar experience in Italy when we accidentally purchased incomplete train tickets. We thought we qualified for a discount when we didn’t. When it came time to check the passengers the conductor was flabbergasted we made this error. He was rude and loud and boisterous when he discovered our error – he refused to understand how we made the error and wouldn’t believe it was an honest mistake. He subsequently gave us a large fine and left the cabin with my wife (six months pregnant at the time) in tears.

Negativity is a powerful thing. It seeps into you, it takes up residency and is quite reckless on it’s journey right to your heart.

The four Italian strangers with whom we were sharing a cabin graciously banded together and gave us the full amount of the fine (over $100 US) out of their own pockets. And in spite of this overwhelming gift of love and compassion my wife and I were still overcome with the aftershock of the mean conductor. It consumed us emotionally the rest of the day.

In the counseling world they say for every negative consequence you give at minimum you should also give 4 positive reinforcers. And I believe it. Because negativity stings – it messes with your head, and it punches with the force of a heavyweight champion. It takes a lot more than compliment on nice hair to topple that.

I don’t offer many teaching posts or lessons on things we should do – but I want to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters to be people of light and love. And I want them to know that we have to work hard to break through all the negativity looming over our world. It is thick in the air and it chokes when breathed in, and has a tight grip around hearts. Our love has to more than match it, it has to overcome it. Which is to say, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

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13 Responses to The Smog of Negativity, Or Love Like An Ox

  1. Jeff says:

    Pushing a bike through 9 inches of snow? You probably did look like an idiot. Which of course, she didn’t need to point out. Why let it bother you? Forgive and go on. I am sure it wasn’t bothering her 2 minutes later. What if the conductor had had recieved a severe warning the day before from his supervisor for being too lenient on tourists who don’t understand what they need to pay. Would that make you think different about his attitude.
    Forgive and move on.
    “Negativity is a powerful thing. It seeps into you, it takes up residency and is quite reckless on it’s journey right to your heart.”
    Only if you allow it to.
    It’s up to you.

  2. One minor blast of negativity directed at me pretty much has the capability to destroy 3-4 days. Or more. I’m still dealing with one that started over a week ago. I’m so freaking insecure that it doesn’t take much to tear down my happy little house of cards.

  3. David says:

    I am such a mature Christian that I never would have yelled “You’re an idiot!” out the window. I would have called my wife and had a good laugh though… πŸ™‚

    As I work my way up through the ranks at my new church, I decided to confront negativity as it occurred. I decided not to be offended, and it seems to be working. I have decided that most folks react, and as long as we let them, (IE: β€œOh yeah, well, you’re a jerk!”) nothing is solved.

    As Chritians we are to live by the Spirit, not by the soul. The soul is a bit of mess, even in the healthiest folks.

    I think we just need a good teaching on being a blessing, and laying our lives down. Jesus said “love your neighbor.” He also said “love your enemy.” Maybe you should have taken down her tag number and followed up by giving her a Starbucks Gift Card?

    Just a thought.

    In the end, the Bible says Proverbs 23:7 For as he [you] thinks in his heart, so is he. At some point we have to take responsibility for our own thoughts. (2 Corinthians 10:5) It sure is great if folks say nice things to us, and about us. It is much more important what God thinks, and how that influences our own thoughts.

  4. Bill Bremer says:

    Come to my site and promote your blog
    1. What is the name of your blog? House Church Connections in the Kingdom of God
    2. What is the url?
    3. How long have you been blogging? About 2 years
    4. What is your blog about? I write about house church from the kingdom perspective. When we meet under a tree in the forest here in Colorado Springs, we call it Organic Church πŸ™‚
    5. Tell us one thing about your blogging experience that we might find of interest:
    About 300 to 500 people visit per day. About 1/5 are from Europe and 1/7 other countries.

  5. Larry Hughes says:

    When I wa a younger lad cruising the blvd. with my latest souped up hot rod, I was always terribly annoyed when older folks were driving sanely safe in front of me. Naturally being a smart punk I would alway give off a jesture as I raced past them. Now I am that old fart driving anely safe in front of the young punks in their so called hot rods. Eventually in time those actions you did come back to bite you.

    In a fit of anger we all do some pretty stupid and anoying acts. It is not meant to be personal but it is hard to forget or not let it bother you. Best in this day and age to let it lay. Never know what those type of people may be packing in their car ( road rage with a gun).

    When this happens to me now I just wave and smile, Just like the old farts did to me when I was the annoyed young lad. However, I don’t think I would go so far as passing out a starbucks gift card.

  6. socabiker says:

    Just found your blog and i love it. Now I’m going to stick around and bother you anonymously from time to time. You’ll hate me. πŸ™‚

    No, seriously – there are a group of bikers in L.A. that are constantly angry and upset and I never understood why – until I made it a point to spend more time on the road bike and less in the mountains. Now I know – drivers seem to de-humanize bikers. I mean, you’re riding along, doing good things for the environment and your wallet and their traffic situation – and they still take time to scream at you!?!? ARGH!

    Still, what are you going to do? I like your approach – get on a blog and tell people to be nicer. It may not work, but then again … maybe it’ll help some.

    Criticisms seem to be like heat. We can take a lot of it for a very short period of time, or a little bit of it for a while … but evenutally it just hurts.
    keep on getting tougher, brother!

    • Welcome! yeah man bikes get a bad rap, I suspect because they are becoming more common and therefore drivers have to watch out for them. But ultimately we like judging and we don’t like people doing things differently from us. I’m being dramatic but sometimes it seems like it just comes down to different lifestyles clashing over preference and taste.

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