Toxic Positivity

This is a rather odd idea, how can someone being positive be toxic? We know that usually a toxic person is someone that brings us down. They might be extra critical of others, have strong views that they over share, or just are a generally negative person. A toxic person is someone that most of us try to avoid for our own sake, and sanity. How can they ever be positive?

Toxic positivity is the act of always encouraging positivity, but never allowing for processing. When we go to our friends and ask them for help, usually the last thing we want them to say is your fine just get over it. I’m obviously not fine, and that is why I wanted your help.

In a sense it is like when someone says that they are depressed or stressed, and someone answers with, just be happy or calm down. This is not a solution to the problem, but it mitigates the problem. That isn’t fair to do to someone else. Mitigating their problems is an issue because what they are going through may be the hardest thing for them.

I see this a lot in the church and I am just as guilty of it as anyone else. Someone may come up to me with a problem, and my response might just be, well you should pray about it. Yes, of course they’re going to pray about it, but that isn’t why they came to me. They wanted fellowship, and someone to listen. Just saying, well you should pray about it, mitigates their problem.

We all like to use comparisons. You think you got it rough, well look at them. This type of thinking is unfair to those that are suffering. If two people break an arm in the same spot doing the same thing, but one person has a broken arm every other week, and the other never has had a broken bone, who felt the worse pain?

Our pain may be relative to our situation, but it is no less troubling than if it was happening to someone else, or someone “stronger.” We are shaped by our pain and through our suffering we learn. I would hate for someone to learn through their suffering that they cannot count on me to be there for them because I mitigated their situation.

Just get over it

Go pray about it

You know I had it rough

Just be happy

Everything will be ok

These are positive things to say, but it isn’t what the person suffering wants or needs to hear. Instead of thinking of a response to say, don’t say anything at all. Let the silence be the response, I hear you. Sit close with them, and when they are done ask them, Is there anything I can do to help? If the person says no then you can tell them that, I know it is hard, but I believe in you. God believes in you.

Empower the weak, empower the suffering, empower those who are going through a hard time and feel like they are drowning. They deserve to have comfort in their suffering just like you did. Don’t mitigate what one person feels because you think it could be worse, understand that we all suffer. Why does God have us love our enemies? Because they are human like us, they suffer like us, they feel pain like us, they need help like us. Be a force of good for someone, but do it in a way that empowers that person no matter who they are or what they face.

Also remember there are of course the outliers as well. People who create suffering to feel empathy from others. For situations like that, do your best. They suffer in other ways.

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