Monica Portogallo finds the benefits of focusing on the good rather than fixating on the negative.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
We all know burying our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich is no way to go through life. Living in denial can be dangerous; what we don’t know, or refuse to acknowledge, certainly can hurt us.
In Philippians 4, though, I think St. Paul refers to something different than denial or being a Pollyanna. One can actively choose to think about the positive things in life without pretending there are no negatives. We can focus on the good in others and still know those same people are members of the fallen human race. A long gratitude list does not mean life is perfect.
A few years back, I realized that I have a tendency to want to wallow in the negative. I would fixate on problems and talk about them over and over again to anyone who would listen. I wasn’t “venting,” I was working myself into a tizzy. It was only making my life worse.
Since then, I have tried, with variable success, to take St. Paul’s words to heart. When I focus on the honorable, the excellent, the lovely, it crowds out the negative, and I put it in proper perspective. It works in so many areas of my life!
At work with my patients, I talk about which foods to cut back on for their particular conditions, but I try to focus more on what foods are better to eat more often. For instance, when Susan filled up on non-starchy vegetables at the beginning of her meal, she didn’t have enough room to eat a whole double bacon cheeseburger. She ate half, and felt satisfied, not deprived.
With my son, I try to focus on the right thing to do instead of harping on what he’s doing wrong. When he had trouble focusing on his school work, I didn’t yell at him about getting distracted. I made up a song about the letters he needed to write, and now he sometimes sings it to himself to help stay focused.
With all that’s going on in our world and our country, it is easy to wallow in the negative, the suffering, the injustice. Still, we can choose to think about the innovation, the creativity, the selflessness, the awareness that has come from them, too.
As St. Paul tells us in Romans 8:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
May God give us the grace not only to tell Him how big our problems are, but also to tell our problems how big our God is!
About the Author
Monica Portogallo is a wife, mother, and registered dietitian nutritionist who does her best not to miss the lessons God sends to her through the joys and struggles of daily life. She lives in California.