Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC, Author
What does the word “attitude” mean?
In psychology, an attitude refers to a set of emotions, beliefs, and behaviors toward a particular object, person, thing, or event. Attitudes are often the result of experience or upbringing, and they can have a powerful influence over behavior. While attitudes are enduring, they can also change. (Cherry, 2018, ¶ 1)
What makes up attitude? Based on the above definition, one can see that attitude has three components that are as easy to remember as the ABC‘s: Affect (feelings); Behavior (actions resulting from the attitude); and, Cognition (one’s thoughts related to the attitude).
Types of Attitude
In simplest terms, three types of attitude exist:
Manifestations of a Positive Healthy Attitude
Key characteristics of a positive attitude, according to Blank (2017), are acceptance, gratitude, optimism, and resilience. To me acceptance implies, as the old saying goes, “If you can’t change what’s happening, change your thoughts about what is happening,” When adversity strikes, accepting people receive what has happened without grumbling or complaining. They go with the flow when negative circumstances out of their control occur.
What is gratitude? One definition of gratitude, according to dictionary.com, is “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful: He expressed his gratitude to everyone on the staff.”
I believe attitudes of gratitude may be learned from families of origin, from other environmental influences, or self-taught; Regardless of how learned, being grateful or thankful is always a choice. Even in the most dire circumstances, one can look around and find something to be grateful about. As an old friend used to tell me, “There’s a silver lining behind every dark cloud.” What does this Old English idiom mean? The phrase simply implies that something good can come out of every situation.
One might ask how is gratefulness a choice. One example in my personal life is how before Milton and I married, we decided that we never wanted to take each other for granted in our marriage—that we would always be courteous with one another always saying “thank you” whenever one spouse did an act of love or service for the other one. Both “thank you” and “you’re welcome” are common statements we choose to use in our home daily.
What is optimism? Optimism is a frame of reference towards life. Do you see the glass half-empty or half-full? The optimistic person sees the glass half-full.Optimists always see the positive side to any situation and always expect the best possible outcome in any situation. They typically have a positive mindset with positive vibes (feelings) that are reflected through a positive lifestyle. A number of benefits exist to being an optimist over being a pessimist, according to Psychologist Martin Seligman, the author of Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life who is known for his work in positive psychology and learned helplessness. Among these benefits are:
- Optimists typically perform better at school, work, and other activities.
- Optimists have better physical health.
- Optimists experience less stress.
Simply stated, resilience is the ability to bounce back when faced with a difficult situation. According to Orgeron (2016),
Dent and Cameron (2003) defined resilience as “the concept that is used to describe the flexibility that allows certain children [or anyone, for that matter; italics added] to cope with and manage major difficulties and disadvantages in life, and even to thrive in the face of what appear to be overwhelming odds.” (p. 5)
Wolin and Wolin (1993), as cited by Siqueira and Diaz (2004), identified seven factors that individuals can work on to improve resilience. These factors are:
*insight (Know oneself.)
*independence (Disaffiliate from turmoil.)
*relationships (Seek out close, rewarding relationships.)
*initiative (Develop goal-directed behavior.)
*creativity (Be expressive to relieve pain.)
*humor (Look for the comic in tragedy.)
*morality (Develop a conscience.) (Orgeron, pp. 45-46).
Negative Attitudes Lead to Negative Consequences
What are the effects of living with a negative or bad attitude? Let’s see, commonsense along with my educational background would tell me that negative attitudes result in the following:
- Fewer friends—after all, most people don’t want to be around others who would only drain them or pull them down.
- More stress
- Less motivation to succeed having an “I can’t” mentality
- Poorer health
- Shorter life expectancy.
How can negative attitudes be changed? Here are a few suggestions:
- Eliminate all negative influences from your life, and that includes people. For example, if you hang out with “whiners” and “complainers”, you need to change your circle of friends. As the old saying goes, “You can’t choose the family you were born into but you can sure choose your friends.” Choose positive people as your closest friends.
- Worry less. Live in the “here and now”.
- Think positive. Use positive affirmations (e.g.: I can do this.)
- Set healthy, achievable goals for yourself.
- Find a new hobby you enjoy.
- Take better care of yourself (e.g.: exercise, eat healthy, etc.)
- Ultimately, I encourage you to develop the mind of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which brings me to my next section talking about what the Bible says about attitude.
Attitude . . . A Christian perspective
What does the Bible say about attitude? Actually, having read the King James Version Bible clear through, I do not recall ever seeing the word “attitude” in the Scriptures. However, that doesn’t mean the Scriptures are silent on the topic. For those of us who are Christians, we are called to have a Christ-like attitude, or the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5).
In Ephesians 5:1-2 Christians are instructed to “…be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us….” (NKJV) What does it mean to love as Christ loved? What is love? In Scripture, the attributes of love are described in I Corinthians 13:4-7:
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not [b]puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, [c]thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (NKJV)
Scripture that I believe exemplifies the difference between having a positive attitude and a negative attitude is the discussion contrasting the fruit of the Spirit from the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-26).
Characteristics Gleaned From Scripture of a Negative Attitude/Personality Contrasted with a Positive Attitude/Personality
Replace with Positive
|Sexual sins: Adultery; Fornication; Uncleanness; Lewdness||Sexual purity: faithfulness to spouse; celibacy before marriage||I Corinthians 6:18; I Thessalonians 4:3-5; Hebrews 13:4; I Corinthians 7:2|
|Idolatry||Christ-Centered Life; Faithfulness||Exodus 20:3-5; I Corinthians 10:14; Ephesians 6:10-20|
|Sorcery||Accept Christ; Practice Spiritual Disciplines||Acts 3:19-21; Ephesians 6:10-20|
|Hatred||Love; Joy; Goodness||John 13:34-35; John 15:11|
|Contentions||Agreement; Peace; Unity; Gentleness||Psalm 34:14; I Peter 3:11; Psalm 133:1|
|Jealousy; Envy||Goodwill; Generosity||Psalm 37:1; Luke 6:38|
|Outbursts of wrath||Peace; Kindness; Calmness; Self- Control; Gentleness; Slow to Anger||I Peter 3:11; Proverbs 15:1-18|
|Selfish||Benevolence; Unselfish; Humility||Philippians 2:3|
|Dissensions||Peace; Harmony; Unity||Psalm 133:1; Psalm 34:14|
|Heresies||Sound Biblical Principles||2 Timothy 2:15|
|Murder||Forgiveness||Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:21-24|
|Drunkenness||Abstinence; Soberness; Temperance; Self-Control||Ephesians 5:18; I Peter 5:8|
|Revelries||Sober; Peaceful||Galatians 5:21; I Peter 5:8|
|Gluttony||Moderation; Temperence; Self-Control||Proverbs 23:2; Proverbs 23:21|
|Impatience||Longsuffering; Patience||2 Thessalonians 3:5; I Timothy 6:11; James 1:4|
Conclusion: The Choice is Yours to Make
In summary, in this blog I’ve discussed secular concepts related to attitude, concluding with what the Scriptures say about attitude. Though psychologists identify three types of attitude: positive, negative, and neutral. In Christianity, basically there are only two attitudes that we have to choose from: a Christ-like (positive) attitude or a worldly (negative) attitude. There is no middle ground in Christianity. To not make a decision for Christ is a decision against Him. Scriptures supporting this premise include:
Matthew 12:30 (NKJV): He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.
Joshua 24:15 (NKJV): And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of [a]the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
In concluding, I share statements related to attitude that caught my eye in research; but, before I do, I would be amiss to not ask “Do you have a Christ-like attitude? Are you living for the Lord? If not, what hinders you?” Whatever is hindering you, I encourage you to let it go.
Blank, C. (2017, June 13). The characteristics of a positive attitude. Retrieved October 2, 2018 from https://www.livestrong.com/article/139801-the-characteristics-positive-attitude/
Cherry, K. (2018, September 20). Attitudes and behavior in psychology. Retrieved October 1, 2018 from https://www.verywellmind.com/attitudes-how-they-form-change-shape-behavior-2795897
Dent, R. J., & Cameron, R. J. S. (2003). Developing resilience in children who are in public care: the educational psychology perspective. Educational Psychology in Practice, 19(1), 3-19.
Orgeron, P. K. (2016). We survived sexual abuse! You can too! Personal stories of sexual abuse survivors with information about sexual abuse prevention, effects, and recovery. Nashville, TN: ABC’s Ministries. Available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Survived-Sexual-Abuse-You-Can/dp/099795650X
Siqueira, L. M., & Diaz, A. (2004). Fostering resilience in adolescent females. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 71(3), 148-154.