You Want Attitude? I’ll Show You Attitude!

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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It doesn't take much. All I need is to hear somebody remind me to have a good attitude, and my bad attitude starts to simmer. Like he would know. Or, Don't you start on me. Or, She can't tell me how to think. And the winner of the bad-attitude sweepstakes: You want attitude? I'll show you attitude.

I'm not proud of these eruptions from my immature, teenage self, but they come whether I want them or not. I hear "good attitude" and I think of a kind of good-attitude cartoon, a clamp-jawed, rictus-grinning, self-appointed saint who always has a good attitude, no matter what. Too tired to work? Just make yourself do it. Disappointed by a failed job or romance? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off. Grieving a loved one? Time to get back to life.

Naturally, nobody wanted me to become this nasty caricature of virtuousness. Mostly, the person (often my mother) just wanted me to get the dishes washed. But there was something about the frequent advice to get a good attitude—the frequency of the instruction tells you how much I needed to hear it—that set my teeth on edge.

Somewhere I had picked up the idea that "a good attitude" was a false attitude, nonstop good cheer. I'll bet I'm not the only one who prefers not to be around this kind of enforced perkiness. Not only does predetermined merriment steamroll our true, complicated feelings, it affects everybody around us. If I'm refusing to acknowledge my own sorrow or disappointment, I'm not likely to have much margin for anybody else's.

I'm not sure about very much, but I'm pretty sure that Jesus never meant to call us to false good cheer. He had a word for this pretense: pharisaical. To put up a show of good spirits, to ignore the truth of our emotional situations, is a way of pretending to holiness, particularly if it allows others to admire our pluck. His call valued truth, and surely truth includes truth about ourselves.

If I admit to myself my disappointments—maybe I didn't get a promotion I'd hoped for, or maybe someone in my family has let me down—something genuinely good does happen to my attitude. My stiffness softens, and I can do necessary tasks better than ever. Working out of my whole self instead of dithering from a trumped-up idea of who I'm supposed to be, I can be humble in Jesus' own sense: truly and wholly closer to God.

As with most things that come from God, there's a bonus. When I'm working with a real good attitude, and not that awful, fake one, I'm open to other people. If the folks around me need attention or encouragement, I'm a lot more likely to see that. If people are calling out, I'm much more apt to hear them, and to want to answer. We're vessels, made to be broken. Our brokenness reminds us of who we are. Fortunately—this is my real good attitude speaking—God promises us we will be broken as often as necessary. I'll try not to pretend otherwise.

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