I have heard it said on many occasions from several reliable sources: “It takes thirteen positive comments to make up for one negative comment.”
Now, I want to be honest. I have been unable to find the scientific research to back this up, so if anyone out there has access to that empirical data, please hook me up.
However, something about the statement speaks to my heart. I highly suspect that it does take thirteen positive comments to make up for one negative comment. What do you think?
Assuming that it’s true, I think we have a real problem here. We live in a world filled with negativity. The media is always telling us that we are not smart enough, good-looking enough, intelligent enough, thin enough, sexy enough, or muscular enough – because they know that if we believe it, we’ll buy their products, right? And most of us (including most of me) are experts in negative humor, always trying to outdo one another with insults that we couch with the classic phrases “I’m just kidding” or “Can’t you take a joke?” But, as one of my friends often says, “If it’s really a joke then everyone should be laughing.” I am convinced that much of what we pass off as humor really isn’t funny at all and can really hurt people. And, finally, some of us are pretty good at talking negatively to ourselves, echoing what the media and others say. It’s easier to believe the lies we hear about ourselves from the media, others, and ourselves than it is to believe the truth that we are created good, in the image and likeness of God.
There is, of course, a spiritual solution to all of the negativity that infects us, because God really does love us and wants us to believe it. I offer three short reflections that can help us out if we take them to heart.
- Try to live out God’s advice for our thought lives in Philippians 4:8 “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” If we can think more positively about others and ourselves, it effects how we feel, act, and speak.
- Let’s let our speech be governed by Ephesians 4: 29, “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification (by the way, that means ‘building others up; not tearing them down’), that it may impart grace to those who hear.” If we only spoke positively toward others, how would that affect the lives of everyone around us?
And finally, here is the kicker -
- Take the “Gimme Thirteen!” challenge! My coworkers and I have decided that if any one of us messes up and insults someone else, we have to immediately give that person thirteen positive comments to make up for the one negative comment. It’s been a very good thing for us. Do you want to invite your friends to take this challenge with you?
One of the most challenging Scriptures of all time, at least to me, is the one in Matthew 25 where Jesus says that anything we do ‘to the least of these’ we do to Him. I can think of no better reason to seek conversion in my thoughts, speech and overall behavior than my desire to love Jesus and His people better. Amen?