L – Lifting Labels (to Look inside)

You don’t have to look far to find the definition of Positive People as those who are happy, always looking for the best in things, well-adjusted and uplifting. It takes little to realize that to not wear smart-quotes-sayings-negative-people-positive-life-joel-osteenan appearance of these things often results in the label of “Negative” which usually comes with the verdict of distancing.

Just take note of the apologies heard and read for “bad” days, expressions of sadness or exposure of other negatively labelled emotions as well as steps taken to pull away from those who cry and step nearer those who celebrate. These go far to tell us how we are expected to package our lives in order to be acceptable. In our individualistically oriented society, the things better done in private include anything that doesn’t fit the solar positivity and bright popularly accepted designs these applesadvertisement have told us makes relationship with us worth buying.

Thinking of relationships as something that nourishes our lives brings into mind the packaging on products we buy in stores or markets. What criteria do we use to purchase the food we consume? Does the brightest label mean the product is the best quality or do we need to look deeper?

There are people who do find it easy to see the most positive scenario in situations. If they also have the privilege of having lives with only minor conflicts they will appear bright and happy all the time, A big sunny label doesn’t mean the product inside isn’t up to all the hype. The caution though is that we recognize the packaging is not why we are buying the product. What we are looking for is what’s inside.

I know where my eyes often scan in trying to discover this. When looking for a good product, I tend to read the ingredient section. What goes into the product I am buying? If all I am looking for is flavor then the high content of products used to boost flavor regardless of their health benefits won’t phase me and into my cart it goes.

It is the same with people. If we are only looking for a quick high in our senses then it won’t matter how the 01-quote_template_002-005person got there. That they are able to wear the kind of face and attitude that creates an easy comfort for us is the main criteria for their acceptance. If, like too much of some flavor enhancing ingredients, the solarity required for these positive relationships comes with negative after affects to your wellbeing it becomes one more uncomfortable reality to hide in the privacy of your life.

In the book Broken, by Anne Peterson, the therapist talks to her about those who create a negative imbalance in her life, people who withdraw from her energy without adding anything back in. In her case, it was the needs of others that kept her from working through needs of her own. For others who are dealing with issues in their life that need honest emotions and the ability to work through to true healing, those who advocate the solar smile model of positivity may be those who make the largest withdrawals.

Positive and negative has to do with whether a person’s affect on someone draws from the person’s wellbeing reserves or gives something into those reserves.

03341f620c7571d2bfbc4f89b9107a25The majority of responses risked openly when people were asked what the terms positive and negative people meant to them supports this definition. What makes a person positive or negative in our world has much to do with our attitudes, our needs and our wants.

There may be those whose withdrawal in our lives is great enough that we have to back away.

It also may be a factor of the events in our own lives and the energy we are expending to hold our own masks in place. The question to ask at that point is who will be there if you or someone you care about faces a crisis situation that causes the masks to slip.

It also has to do with whether we define relationships as short term consumable products or long term commitments that come with give and take. Relationships that last bear ingredients 383aca3fda60580255ed79de1c1a167elists full of a mixture of  things we tend to sort into positive and negative traits and experiences. The dark is a part of what author Barbara Brown Taylor refers to as a lunar cycle that is more consistent with real life.

We are people who are conditioned to live in a world of day-light and night-keep-the-dark-away. Fearing the dark we fill our lives with technological and relational luminance. What if we stepped outside of our closets far enough away from all our artificial light and stood in that darkness that is a natural part of life?

We would see a sky full of stars.

“Even when light fades and darkness falls – as it does every single day in every single life
God does not turn the world over to some other diety.”
Barbara Brown Taylor


Here are summaries of some of the comments I received:

“We are all positive and negative, …. rather fluid. … Then of course, there is the spectrum that connects these two poles.” (C. and K M).

There are people that are so negative about everything, I must admit I shun them, not out of meanness, but because I am sponge who soaks up my surroundings. Then again, over the top positive can be a bit of a challenge as well.” (E.S).

One poster (C.M.) told the story of a day she mentioned it looked like rain and the person she was talking to  literally sprayed her with an “anti-negativity spray.” Another poster worded the kind of image this brings to mind, “who is to say that when you said it looked like rain that you were being negative!!!!! Anti-negative spray! I have this image of loads of unhinged people dancing away probably wearing Positive shades of colour spraying each other with positive spray!!! “(L.L.)

This is a way of labelling people that I really dislike. I wouldn’t label anyone as positive or negative but there have been people in my life who I have found difficult to the point of needing to distance myself from them. Does that make them negative, or is my response to them negative?” (K.P.)

“I suppose that for me a positive person is someone who when they are having a bad day or are unhappy don’t try and drag others down with them, and a negative person does….. the fact of labelling people as good or bad, better or worse etc in this way, whatever the distinctions, can be so damaging on many levels – to people on both sides of the divide.” (K.P.)

Positive people lift you up (even at the expense of their own suffering). Negative people fight to be on top, and push to bring you down.” (M.C.R.)

Another poster commented about those who are down at times but “for the most part they are encouragers, uplifting, enjoyable to be around. They do your heart and your spirit good. They can find good in any one and a silver lining in every cloud.” He contrasts those who “find it far too easy to complain…about people, their job, their health, life in general. They can find a cloud in every silver lining.” (R.H.)

Positive people see the problems in life but are looking past them to solutions, resolutions, or growth. Negative people see the same problems and despair, worry, hide, etc.” (G.H.)

The term “negative person” is relative to the person who is offering it! “Negative” and “Positive” are terms that are used more as slang than descriptive adjectives. Someone who observes the current “state” of another must also reflect upon their own current state when they make their observation. What is our litmus? What is the barometer that defines the balance between negative and positive behaviour? What scale? Of course, Positive and Negative have definition, but when used in the context of human interaction or emotion, that definition needs to be expanded because we’re dynamic and unequal in our emotional and psychological being.” (T. B.)



– My thanks to the Facebook friends and acquaintances who took the time to share their views on what is meant by positive and negative people.
– Peterson, Anne; Broken. Soon to be available through Amazon Kindle books.
– Taylor, Barbara Brown; Learning to Walk in the Dark, Harper Collins, Publisher

– Apples – Jafar Alam, DIVINE BREEZES, http://jafaralam.blogspot.ca/
– Robin Williams quote – http://www.pinterest.com/centerofbalance/marc-and-angel/

Thanks also to Tim Bourdois (T.B.) for his help in discussing and prereading this article. http://camerahiker.wordpress.com/about/



17 thoughts on “L – Lifting Labels (to Look inside)

    1. ljandrie57 Post author

      In the book I am reading called Learning to Walk in the Dark, the idea of lunar and solar faith, which is how she was using it felt like a star appearing in my own sky.

      I realized that our life is marked in the cycles of the moon. Whether or not we see the sun can be a factor of the weather. It allows us to sit through the different phases of our lives with so much more peace.

  1. Angela Watt

    Great and interesting post. I think that to experience the beauty of light you need to have been in the dark and surely it is in the darkness of night that we refresh ourselves for another day ahead. In terms of the labels of positive and negative, I feel there is merit in trying to find the positive yet there are times when it’s also ok to focus on the negative and just be in that place for a while. It might be just what you need right at that point. I guess it’s if it continues that it can become draining for the person and for others around them, but as we have not walked in anyone else’s shoes other than our own, we don’t always know what could be causing the negativity. Anyway enough said, I think I’m getting myself tangled up a bit now 🙂 Really enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

    1. ljandrie57 Post author

      I have read somewhere that it is not so much an experience that is negative but our response to it. Experiences and people just are.

      Negative and positive are labels that often keep us from looking within the experience and seeing our own responses or reactions to what is. That is where we have control in our lives. That is where we have to measure the impact and ask what lessons this person, experiences, emotional space, etc may have to teach us.

      I have pulled away from people in the past, not because they are negative — I can’t call them that since I don’t know the sum total of their lives. I pull away from them because I notice that the depletion of my own energy to live and do the things that I feel are important seems to drain out when I am in too much interaction with them.

      By noticing instead of labelling, I free myself to change my interaction with that person in another setting if I can by giving myself the distance I need. I also acknowledge that their impact on my life may not be the same impact they have on the lives of others.

  2. annepeterson

    Great post. Thank you for the mention of my book. I appreciate it. We are so conditioned by the world aren’t we. Without getting help, I don’t know where I’d be.

    1. ljandrie57 Post author

      I felt your book said what I needed to say there. We have been conditioned to box people without first really listening. You most definitely showed the need to listen in your book. If you notice my comments on the labelling post, another reader of that post also read and appreciated your book.

      1. annepeterson

        I think you’re right Linda. We do box people at times without really listening. I’m so glad I was able to convey some of the things I set out to do in writing BROKEN.

  3. annepeterson

    Also loved this quote. “There may be those whose withdrawal in our lives is great enough that we have to back away.” Sad, but true. And at those times, we need courage to do that. Because often we are too afraid to do it.

    1. ljandrie57 Post author

      It is hard to back away and yet, backing away doesn’t just care for ourselves but for those who love us as well. I think in the biggest place I had to back away, it also cared for the person I backed away from.

      Where I can, I stay in contact from a safer distance. In other places contact has to be cut off. It takes courage, but also the knowledge that there is one bigger than us that is still able to make a difference in that person’s life. Sometimes our efforts can get in the way of that.

      1. annepeterson

        Boy do I agree with what you said about trusting God who really knows the person we are backing away from. It doesn’t feel like love to the person who watches others back away. Have you read Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud? Cloud also wrote Necessary Endings. A really good book. I used to think people were in your life for always. A friend of mine told me we had friends for reasons, for seasons, or for life. Unfortunately then she illustrated it by subtracting herself from my life. When people have abandonment issues, and I do, then it’s painful when this happens. I’m so glad God has promised he will never subtract Himself from me. Never.

      2. ljandrie57 Post author

        I am also learning to listen to the comments that help us let go of those who choose to back away. That is a hard one for me.

        Tonia had a good TED talk posted today on Living with Our Regrets. There are times when I have had to learn from why the person walked away so I can do better in future relationships. There are other times I have to learn by why I let that person stay in my life so long and recognize that my relationship to the person was based on old behaviors that kept me bound to the hurts in the past. Its all things I had to learn as an adult.

        The learning doesn’t always happen right away, but over time I am learning to let go.

      3. annepeterson

        I’ll have to watch the TED talk. I just got back from Chicago and I’m still processing the whole experience. I totally agree with what you said about people and broken relationships. I have a few.

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