4 Strategies to help lead a pessimist toward a more positive view.
Do you have a negative person in your life? Someone who “gives free reign to…complaint” and “speaks out in bitterness” (Job 10: 1)? How do you handle that person?
First of all, it’s important to emphasize that, if the unhappiness is chronic, overwhelming and deep-seated, you should urge the individual to get counseling or other professional assistance. Someone suffering from clinical depression is ill and needs a trained therapist and possibly medical help.
But if the negativity is a matter of habitual attitude rather than illness, then try these strategies to help lead the pessimist toward a more positive view of things.
1. Look first to yourself.
Before you can convince anyone else to be more optimistic, you need to root out all negativity in yourself. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” Jesus said. “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7: 4-5).
When you have cleared your own mind of negativity, fill it with thought of God and verses of Scripture that give hope, such as: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you” (Isaiah 26:3); “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26); and “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
This exercise should be repeated whenever you feel yourself slipping into negativity.
2. Model a positive outlook.
The positive person refrains from gossip, complaining, criticism, angry outbursts, hopeless statements—even such seemingly harmless ones as gripes about how bad the weather is or how discouraging the news. Instead, he or she is an example of kindness, good humor, patience, generosity, hopefulness. This kind of person makes everyone he or she meets feel better. Take the Apostle Paul’s advice and speak about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…excellent or praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).
3. Strengthen and share your faith.
“Preach the gospel,” St. Francis of Assisi is reported to have said, “and, if necessary, use words.” Of course, a positive example goes only so far; if someone has never heard the Good News about how Christ changes lives, then we believers are called to share it. Choose your opportunity tactfully and let your negative friend know about your beliefs and the Bible’s promises. Invite him or her to your church to experience a Christian welcome.
This, of course, takes courage. Pray for the Holy Spirit to empower you to speak about your faith “with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31). Look for an opportunity to share with your negative friend the truth that God intends only ultimate good for us. The Bible says so in no uncertain terms. "‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
4. Pray for the person.
The best thing to do for a negative person is to pray for him or her. This may come easily for you if that person is a personal friend—but Jesus commanded us to go further and pray for our enemies. Be “faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12) as you seek to help lift someone from the throes of negativity into the power of positive thinking.