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How You React to Negativity Says a Lot About You

This world, by and large, is a negative place. People are prone to lying, stealing, being cruel, being disrespectful, being unloving, being spiteful even when there is no reason for it. Many times, people do negative things on purpose, hoping for a negative response, even when they don’t realize that this is what they are doing. How each of us reacts to the negativity tells a great deal about our character.

Some of the negativity is perceived even when there is no intent. This is the easiest to deal with since a little thought is all it takes to realize that we are mentally assigning negativity to an action that is neither negative or positive. We’ve all probably been subjected to this sort of thing many times. Reacting in a negative way is inappropriate and wrong, showing a weakness of character.

I used to often react negatively when there was no intent, and I still occasionally do, though personal growth has lessened that reaction substantially. For example, a decade ago I worked as a computer technical engineer. It wasn’t uncommon for me to need to reformat my computer and totally reinstall windows every six to nine months or so because of how heavily I used the computer. Yet, every time the computer would freeze, I’d let myself get angry. Anger is a negative emotion. Noone and nothing can ‘make‘ you angry. You own your emotions and you are the only one who can control them.

Obviously, there was no intent by the computer to be negative and lead me to anger. My anger and venting showed a weakness of character, especially since I so often reformatted and reinstalled Windows anyway.

About month ago, I had to reformat and reinstall Windows on my computer. I didn’t get mad at the computer or the people around me. I didn’t vent. I simply did what was needed. That was a positive reaction.

As another example, there have been a number of times I’ve been driving somewhere and found myself behind someone who was driving slow. They would slow way down in areas where I couldn’t pass and speed up in places where I could. My normal reaction would be to say things like, “Come on, drive faster! Don’t you know that I’m trying to get somewhere? I don’t have all day.”

Now, first of all, it is a foregone conclusion that the other driver couldn’t hear my tirade. Second of all, it is likely that they trying to get somewhere, too. The venting was pointless and meaningless, changing nothing, but allowing my negative emotions to overwhelm my mind. For all I know, the other driver simply didn’t know the area and was driving defensively. If so, it is understandable that they would slow down in places where I couldn’t pass, like around curves and up hills, and they’d speed up in straight-stretches where they had visibility for a greater distance. Even though this involved another person, it is highly unlikely that there was any intent to cause anger. Negative reactions on my part showed childishness and lack of growth.

On a trip to the city a few weeks ago, we again got behind exactly this sort of driver. Instead of venting and getting right on the person’s bumper, hoping to find someplace where I could pass them, all while my blood pressure would soar, I took the time to appreciate the scenery and I engaged my wife and daughter in conversation about that scenery. That turned the situation into a positive one. It was quality time spent with my family that wouldn’t have occurred had we not gotten behind a person driving 10 miles per hour below the speed limit. The only thing we lost was about three minutes of driving time for the 70-mile trip, yet we arrived more relaxed and in a positive state of mind.

That isn’t always easy to do, but it shows personal growth and a strength of character.

What about when it is intentional? Again, each of us is the only person who has the right to control our emotions, even when someone is purposely trying to cause anger or frustration. There are examples for that, too.

Some years ago, I ran the forums for a large online company. Occasionally, a member would be obstinate and obnoxious. It was clear that they were trying to upset me. Others noticed it as well and although I made it a point not to take it out on them and didn’t react to them negatively, my family certainly knew when I dealt with people like that. I’d actually let the anger and frustration control my mood at home. Although the perpetrator was never aware of it, I gave them exactly what they wanted; control of my anger. That was childish.

The flip side of this is here at Virily. There is an individual who downvotes nearly every article I write. It is quite obvious that this has nothing to do with a disagreement with the content since it has happened with articles that were tributes or that were totally positive. It is also clear that there is intent since they do it repeatedly, with article after article. On occasion, they’ve even left snarky comments on something I’ve written, so it is clear as crystal that their intent is to cause anger. It is a reason I never downvote a post.

I could retaliate and vote their articles down. I could leave equally snide comments on their articles. I could complain to anyone who would listen, including my family. However, I do none of these things and don’t feel anger. Instead, I feel pity and pray for the person. They apparently have problems I’m not aware of and I wish them the best for resolving those issues. In fact, though it is not their intention, they are helping me by giving me a view for my articles. Retaliating wouldn’t help anyone and negativity simply breeds negativity. Their actions also don’t actually hurt me in any way.

How each of us reacts to negativity says a great deal about us and how strong our character is. We each have the ability to lash out in anger or to show love, compassion, and consideration. This is a personal choice. Nobody else can make that choice for us because we own our own emotions.

If someone has problems and issues and chooses to act childishly, instead of confronting them or retaliating, treat them with love and respect. Pray for them instead of reacting negatively. It isn’t always easy, but there is plenty of negativity to go around without adding to it. Being positive is not only better, it is healthier.

Consider this; you influence everyone you come into contact with. You can influence them in a positive way or you can influence them in a negative way. How you will influence them is entirely up to you.

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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24 Comments

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  1. A powerful message of how our attitudes are just that. OUR attitudes and OUR reactions. No matter what others do or say, they do not make us react a certain way. That is OUR choice. Yes it is difficult but life is like that. Have a great day. 🙂

  2. This is one of the best articles I’ve red so far! You are more than right with saying that one’s reaction says reveals it all! The day we manage to react exactly the same on the positive and negative comments, is the day we’ve reached the peak of our self-discover! It’s only our own opinion that matters!

    • It is sadly an issue that people seem to actually refuse to understand (not ALL people, but many). Every one of us has the ability to be positive or negative in our reactions. A lot of people choose to react negatively and that is entirely on them. Yet, in modern society, a lot of effort is put into blaming everyone else (as well as inanimate objects, things like the weather, and so forth.) Affixing blame is not only negative and counterproductive, it is also an attempt at justification and justification is a thinking error.

      Thank you for the compliment!

  3. Absolutely agree with “Being positive is not only better, it is healthier.” because stresses resulting from the negative perception of some things can have a devastating effect on health. So, as sung in one famous song, “don’t worry, be happy”!

  4. I also loved the graphic. Chocolate and love cover a multitude of hurts. I’m afraid my natural tendency is to grumble or get angry when something I want to do is blocked. I have actually yelled at my computer more than once before rebooting to try to speed it up. And I was pretty upset with that cyclist I couldn’t pass yesterday because here was no bike land, it was a narrow road, and it was full of curves. The law here is that motorists have to stay at least three feet from a cyclist, and I couldn’t do it without crossing the yellow line. I’m afraid the flesh is often in control, not the Spirit. But I’m working on it and trying to form new habits of reacting that are more godly.

    • To correct the issue, the first thing that is absolutely necessary is to admit that you have the issue. You’ve done that and it is such an important step. I used to react negatively to all sorts of things, many of which were neither negative or positive. I chose to react that way and didn’t even realize that I was doing it. I still sometimes react that way, but it is less frequent because I’m more aware of it.

      We have the same sort of laws here, regarding the biker. Bicyclists and pedestrians have the right of way. There can be some great positives that can come out of something like that, though. I also believe that things don’t happen for no reason. I might not know what the reason is, but there always is one and it can be a huge opportunity in some way. Figuring out what the opportunity is can be challenging, but it can also be fun.

  5. I think it’s great that you’re working on your anger, Rex. Too many people get angry in situations where it won’t serve any purpose but to make them more upset. And I think too many people also choose to believe another person has a negative intent, without ever confronting the person to ask them. It’s not healthy to always see the bad in the people around you.

    • It also isn’t biblical, in the slightest. The hardest thing for me to learn is to let go of my anger when I do get angry. That isn’t human nature. I get angrier with myself than with anyone else and that is also not productive. Yet, situations that do make a person angry can be wonderful opportunities to do something positive.

      • I don’t know about what’s biblical, but I do think we have anger for a reason. It teaches us where we feel vulnerable, for one thing. It reminds us to set boundaries or to walk away from a toxic situation.

        Anger can also serve to draw our attention to something intolerable that should be changed. Like bullying or racism. It makes it impossible for us to ignore the situation, kind of like a baby’s cry makes us want to pick it up and care for it.

        I find that I cringe when people say we shouldn’t get angry, but should try only to be happy in life. I think that’s very fake – and probably a pointless effort. But I do think that many people need some serious anger management. They behave as if they were never taught to cope with anger or disappointment when they were children. You see a lot of that online especially, because people think it’s OK to be a brat when you’re anonymous.

        • If you think about it, though, anger is almost always pointless, too. What people tend to do with that anger is even worse. Yelling, screaming, fighting, throwing things, hitting objects, breaking things, causing bodily harm to other people, killing people in a rage, physically abusing children or other people…all of these are results of anger. None of them accomplish anything that is worthwhile.

          Anger takes away from the joy of life and living and it often feeds on itself. Positive emotions are far more productive. Yet, a huge number of people have anger issues. People can either choose to let themselves get angry or they can control their emotions.

          • I used to be a continually angry person. It took a different mindset to overcome it. One thing that I’ve learned, though, is that nearly everyone has occasional issues with anger, even if they don’t know it. Anger issues can be overcome, but only when a person recognizes that they have anger problems.

            I am still working on it and sometimes still catch myself reacting negatively. It is human nature and it isn’t something that just goes away.

    • It is a work in progress for me, too. I often catch myself getting heated when I shouldn’t at all. In the scheme of things, it just isn’t worth getting upset about. People that do things like that seem to be so wrapped up in the world that they are naturally negative, more often than not, and don’t realize that they are doing anything wrong and is ultimately hurting themselves. Although I do hope that they will mature, I can’t control their mindset or actions. I can only control mine.

      All of this is also true in a marriage. I don’t *have* to say things that I know will set my wife off and very often, the wisest thing to do is to say nothing at all. If it is something that she did or didn’t do, it is far better to just undo it or do it myself rather than fight about it. I’m gradually learning that if I can’t say something lovingly, not to say anything at all.

      • This is especially true in marriage. It’s so easy to reenact the same negative scripts year after year and repeat the same fights because of it. We’ve learned what happens when we press a spouse’s buttons, but we still do it occasionally. I have never yet seen anything good come from that.

        • Very true, Barbara. It happens frequently with those we care about the most. We also allow ourselves to become disappointed easily with a spouse or a loved one. Sometimes we’ll work hard doing something special, expecting a certain response. When we get a different response or no response at all, it is disappointing. Yet, if we didn’t expect anything at all, we wouldn’t have been upset. In those cases, expecting a certain response is setting ourselves up to experience negative emotions. It isn’t wise, but I catch myself doing it.

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