I sometimes think it is incredible that our minds go so quickly to things that are negative.
Because I love sports, I try to keep up with my favorite players and teams. What I’ve noticed is that the sports writers seem so quick to get critical of players that aren’t doing very well.
In football, the focus often goes to the quarterback. A case in point is our local hero and Holland Christian and Michigan State standout, Kirk Cousins. His present team, the Minnesota Vikings, expected him to come in and dominate every team he faced so they could go to the Super Bowl. Well, things didn’t go so well for him at the beginning of the season, and almost immediately the critics jumped all over him. “He’s no good!” “The Vikings wasted a lot of money on a mediocre quarterback.” “Get someone else in there!”
The same thing has happened this year in Chicago, my hometown. Mitch Trubisky has not excelled like many expected he would. And the critics are looking all over the NFL landscape for someone else to replace him and take charge for the Bears.
Then there’s Matthew Stafford. He’s got pretty good stats, but just can’t seem to produce a winner. Or is it the coach’s fault? “Fire the coach!” is a frequently heard phrase in professional sports.
I suppose that is the price one pays for leadership – you are expected to produce. And produce big time, or else! Or else what? You will be attacked, criticized and hung out to dry.
It seems like a very human thing for our thoughts to go to the negative. You can get all A’s on your report card except that one subject. Guess which grade you think about? The bad grade!
The same is true in the world of politics. All the Democrats can see is what they perceive as bad with the Republicans, and all the Republicans can see is the bad in the Democrats. And our governmental system is paralyzed because of partisan politics. Nothing gets done in Washington and everyone is frustrated. How I wish they and all of us could concentrate on the positive, work together and cut out the criticism.
I read just the other day some interesting words from an Olympic athletic coach. He says this: “There are four negative thoughts that produce toxic chemicals in the brain. They are hate, greed, fear and jealousy.” To get his athletes to do better, he says that they must change these into positive thoughts – love, generosity, courage and praise. He claims that service to others is one of the best ways to move into this healthy context, and he has found that doing this has proven to be effective in producing the winning edge.
This indeed is an amazing discovery! Thoughts produce chemicals, and positive thoughts produce positive and healthy chemicals. We would do well to ponder this and reflect on what our own thoughts are.
Now, I realize that we cannot always control our feelings. Sometimes we find ourselves thrown into situations that overwhelm us with sadness or fear. We don’t ask for these things – they just happen.
But the important thing is that we can control our thoughts. Our thoughts can change how we feel about things. It’s those positive, healthy chemicals kicking in! Consciously entertaining a thought of love or praise for another person or God can absolutely affect our feelings.
Besides that, as a Christian I also believe that prayer can also have a positive impact. Falling on our knees and confessing our need for God’s strength and courage can also help. Asking God to change our thoughts of hatred to those of love for someone can make a tremendous difference. I know – I’ve experienced it.
A recent worship song catches the spirit of what I am talking about here. The song goes like this: “Change my heart, O God, make it ever true. Change my heart, O God, may I be like you.”
Lord knows, we need a “change of heart” in this country. There is just way too much negativity! Let’s replace hate, greed, fear and jealousy with love, generosity, courage and praise. And may our prayer be that of David in Psalm 51: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
About the writer: The Rev. John Koedyker is the pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church of Grand Haven.