Get Real on the Internet

“Sick of “perfect” posts online? Who isn’t? That’s why this month Real Simple is hosting “Get Real on the Internet” week.” January 2014 issue, pg. 23

Or take the social media post I read recently that went something like “Couples who are really happy don’t feel the need to talk about it to others.”

Is that what we really believe?

Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the thought behind some of these ideas. Real Simple takes the stance that social media has become a platform of one-upping and painting ourselves in a perfect light to create jealousy. I could chalk up the second quotation to a private person who doesn’t feel the need to share life details. Both of these things are fine. But what I can’t get behind is the idea that by being “real” we are called to be negative. And here’s why:

  1. Negativity breeds negativity. And it doesn’t always start with that intent. If I establish a routine of negative honesty and call my girlfriends to complain about something Freddy did that day (for example), they will get behind me and tell me why I have a right to feel upset, angry, etc. They mean to build me up and be supportive but what they do is feed into my negativity and encourage it. Likewise, if I complain about something Freddy did that day and they had a similar experience that they’ve already brushed off in their lives, they’ll bring it up in an effort to empathize with me. Now suddenly, we’re all festering over an issue that (usually) really wasn’t an issue at all. On the other hand, if I establish a routine of positive honesty, those same friends will offer me the good examples and encourage me to dig deeper into finding a solution or peaceful resolution. (“Positive honesty” and “negative honesty” are both honesty. It all has to do with perception. I can choose to focus on the good things in my life or I can fester over the bad. I have both in my repertoire.)
  2. Negative honesty leads to missed opportunities to experience blessing. We often see the greatest blessings after a stretch of trials. And when we are in the habit of living with positive honesty, we are able to appreciate smaller blessings with greater impact. The card in the mail. The coupon for the store you love. That picture from years ago that captures exactly how you felt at the time. All of these are easily missed when walking around with a cloud of negativity. Somehow they’re not big enough blessings to break through.
  3. Negativity portrays the wrong image. We all want to be liked, respected, and loved but when we focus on the negative, we exhibit those qualities that we shy away from in others. To take it a step further, as Christians, we are called to be lights to the world. How do we stand out of the crowd if we’re constantly being negative? Why would anyone look at us and see something they want to be a part of? We’re walking billboards for our faith and we need to start realizing that the way we react has an impact.

I could go on, but I think you get my point.

I should probably mention that when I talk about negative honesty, I’m not talking about the honesty of admitting “I’m having a bad day.” or “I’m grumpy.” or “I feel like I was mistreated during this conversation.” I think those are basic building blocks for communication – we need to let the people around us know how we feel to start working toward a better relationship. What I’m talking about it is “Everything around me is awful.” or “People make me so angry.” or “You never treat me right.” Those generalities and absolutes mean we’re constantly searching for examples to support our claims. I have bad days. And when I can tell my coworkers or my spouse that I’m having a bad day before we get started, it helps us to navigate the day better. 

When Freddy and I got married, my mom gave me the best advice I could give to anyone searching to be more positive. She said, “Don’t tell me about Freddy and your fights as a married couple. You spend every day with him and you will forgive him and move on but if I hear only bad, I will resent him and find it difficult to forgive.”

Seems pretty clear cut. I want the people I love to be loved by others. If I find myself in a pattern of only bringing up the negative things because I feel negative or feel as though I will be judged for being positive, then I’m setting my relationships up for failure. Why would I want to do that? And why would I want to pull someone else into negativity when it has nothing to do with them? I wouldn’t.

So by all means, be real. Be happy in your relationship and keep it to yourself if you don’t like to share. But when someone asks, offer them some positive honesty. And when you’re having a bad day, seek out the silver lining before spreading it on social media unless you’re generally asking for help. And if you are, qualify your negative honesty so we know to build you up. Because we want to. But you need to want it too.

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