There are various meanings of “positivity” from electrical charges to efforts to be affirming and encouraging to others. But it can also describe a rather unhealthy hyper-positivity found among many Christians nowdays that denounces all things “negative” and praises all things “positive”. They seem to think that ignoring anything we don’t like and only allowing ourselves to think of pleasant things is somehow the key to godliness.
Sometimes it seems as though an 11th commandment has been added – or has even replaced the original 10 commandments: “Thou shalt be positive.” Positivity rejects all criticism with a vehemence that is sometimes, well, not very positive.
I have seen positivity folk in action. Someone brings up a concern, say about an ill-planned policy, and before long Mr or Ms Positivity will jump up in distress demanding that something positive must be said to offset the “negativeness”. What is especially dangerous is when false teachers or corrupt leaders are excused and protected by a squad of positivity police.
Some people quote Philippians 4:8 as a sort of “proof text” that you should refuse to think about anything that is negative:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
A quick check of a concordance shows that neither “positive” nor “negative” occurs in Scripture. But what Scripture does talk about repeatedly is TRUTH vs falsehood. Truth is the measuring stick. In fact, truth is the first thing on the list in the verse above, and yet it seems many positivity people’s eyes just skip that word.
Psalm 51:6 6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
John 3:22 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
Ephesians 6:14-15 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
2 Tim 2:25-26 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
And more ominously:
2 Thess 2:10-12 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
It would seem that God’s measuring stick is TRUTH, not positivity. And be sure to note that several of the above verses and others call for truth WITH LOVE. Truth with kindness and gentleness.
Positivity appeals to the flesh, the desire for sweetness and light. We do not want to correct others because we ourselves do not want to be corrected. The desire of our corrupt sin nature is to hide from the light, to hide from truth. Positivity does not acknowledge sin, or hell, or a need for a Savior. Positivity is pride.
It is not always easy for us as fallen people to tell the difference between truth and falsehood. We need practice in discerning the difference because sometimes it can get pretty subtle. But God’s Word is the standard for discerning between truth amd falsehood, between spiritual light and spiritual darkness.
I am NOT saying thet we should delight in negativity and gloom and doom. Being positive is pleasant and can be helpful to us and to others – but not if it is at the expense of truth. We are better off pursuing truth with love. Pursuing positivity can lead us into deception.