Negativity Kills (literally)

Evan Forester —  July 13, 2012 — 3 Comments

Last year I read a simple, interesting book called “How Full is Your Bucket.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the book was extremely influential on me. Even now, rarely does a week go by where I do not think of the book’s simple message and see how helpful it is in living the full life.

The Argument:

Despite being based in decades of scientific research, the concept is so simple it could be in a kid’s book (actually, it is in a kid’s book). Everybody has an imaginary “bucket” and “ladle.” When you say something encouraging or positive to another person, you fill their bucket. Most of us realize this, but we fail to notice that filling another person’s bucket also fills our own bucket.

Conversely, when we say something degrading or negative to another person, we dip out of their bucket. Again, when we dip out of someone’s bucket, we also dip out of our own bucket. It’s ironic, because most people who say condescending things are trying to feel better about themselves, but ultimately it makes them feel worse.

Negativity breeds negativity, and positivity creates positivity. The book had several fascinating case studies. Businesses around the country with negative work environments or negative employees lose billions of dollars every year compared to those in positive environments. They also predicted marriage success rates incredibly accurately after observing couples positive and negative interactions for merely 15 minutes.

It is seriously insane how much of a difference negativity or positivity can make in your life and the lives of others, but no case study stuck out to me more than the following:

The Korean War

Did you know that more Americans died in Korean Prisoner of War (POW) camps than in any other POW camp from any other war? They never even touched the soldiers physically, they simply destroyed them through negativity.

They had several methods for destroying hope. First, they had group “therapy” sessions where men had to share about all of their regrets, but were never allowed to talk about success. Second, they encouraged men to be snitches and tell on others by offering rewards. Third, they withheld all encouraging mail (love letters, prayer letters, etc) and only delivered the negative mail (past due bills, wives who gave up, etc).

There were other methods of course, but their goal was to make the men feel isolated and alone, without hope. It worked. Countless men simply curled up in bed and refused to move until they died from hopelessness. I never knew the destructive power of negativity could be so strong, but it is.

Negativity Today

Somehow, we excuse negativity in today’s culture. People say horrible things on the internet and behind each other’s backs, but Christians can justify the action by saying it quickly or under our breath or adding “bless his heart” at the end of our statement.

If we continue to be negative, it is going to continue to hurt others and ourselves. We’ll hate our jobs, more marriages will fail, and we’ll even lose hope in mankind. Being encouraging and positive is essential to the full life. I’m not suggesting that you ignore the bad stuff in the world, but building others up is crucial if we hope to make it through the hard times together.

Here’s my challenge to you: Find at least one person today and encourage them. Then, next time you are tempted to say something hurtful, remember how you much better you felt when you said something nice.

It is a quick and fascinating read, and I definitely encourage you to get it. You can find it on Amazon right here: How Full Is Your Bucket?

Evan Forester

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This post was by Evan, an adventure enthusiast learning to #LiveFully in New Zealand. He now writes for Embracing Exile.