Taking moments to notice the positive

During the Civil War, at the Battle of Fredericksburg, in what was one of the most one sided victories for the Confederacy, the Union Army marched across open ground to face an entrenched Confederate Army. The Union’s losses were massive and what they had endured was etched in their memories, so much so, that during Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, the Union soldiers chanted “Fredericksburg as the Confederate soldiers retreated back to the woods.

Throughout history, often in war, we see instances of remembrance as points of inspiration for an army during battle. The battle cry for the Texans during their War of Independence became “Remember the Alamo. “Remember Pearl Harbor is another familiar expression that was used throughout WWII. Pearl Harbor is something I will personally always remember, not because of my age but because when I was seven years old, I lived on Pearl Harbor’s Naval Base, literally yards from the harbor. I saw the Arizona Memorial repeatedly and the wreckage beneath the water. For those who have been to the Memorial, the oil on the water remains etched in your memory.

In the same way, the attack on 9-11 will remain particularly vivid in the minds of those who lived in New York as the landscape is forever absent of the twin towers. The same is obviously true for those who were on the campus of Virginia Tech along with the families of students who will always remember April 16th, 2007 and the massacre that took place that day.

Though it would seem remembering events like these should be simple, it is in our nature that we collectively forget things, or that we lose their meaning. Recently, a 17 year old asked a friend of mine what 9-11 was. The idea of someone not knowing seems amazing to me as most of us can remember where we were, what we were doing, etc. when 9-11 happened. But as I thought about this 17 year old, it struck me that she was only 10 when the event occurred. It was not so vivid in her mind. She may not even have been told. So in this, we see a special connection, and for parents, frankly an obligation, to teach and remind our children of what has happened not only in their own lives but in the “distant past as well.

Remembering is an experience, but when we begin to look at things that have happened during our lifetime or in our history rather than events that we have personally experienced, our memory fades and the event loses its meaning and exclamation in our mind. If it is our nature to forget, then we must endeavor to remember the experience. Remembering must be linked to the emotion of that experience. But why is it that we often forget the positive emotions and instead remember those that are not pleasant?

A common joke in our culture is that men forget their own wedding anniversary. An extraordinary day, filled with wonderful emotions gets lost in the minutiae of life. We sometimes need reminders, prompters, triggers to make sure we don’t forget. Thank goodness for Microsoft calendar reminders.

But how is it that we forget or why is it that we forget? I would tell you that it is our habit to forget the positive, and more routine to remember the negative. We do this all the time. “Let me tell you what happened to me, rarely surrounds something positive that happened. It is more likely to point to how we have been treated “unfairly or what someone had “done to us.

This is particularly true in the workplace. When I was in graduate school, my independent study was on evaluation systems. What I found and witnessed in my own workplace is that most often when people evaluate others, they merely remember and note the most recent negative behaviors. We are not inclined to view the avalanche of positives that have occurred. Why…because the negatives remain with us longer. We often don’t record or keep triggers for all the positive things that have occurred.

As parents, this is acutely important, for so often we dwell on the moment of what our child did wrong versus remembering all that they have done right. I am not saying that there should not be accountability when our children behave in a way that is inappropriate, but do we acknowledge and remember to tell them all the time, the majority of the time, even some of the time all the things they have done right? Isn’t that the crux of the problem; we remember the negatives, and ignore so often the positives.

So take a moment now to remember:

  1. all that you have to be grateful for
  2. how you can praise your children for the positive that they have done

Our memory for the positive must remain stronger than that of the negative. We need to:

  1. develop the habit of remembering all that we have to be grateful for
  2. take the time to record the positive…write them down even, then share them
  3. communicate to those you love more of the positive than the negative

Remember, that you as parents and adults are teachers. Teach those you love to remember all that we can be thankful for and develop the habit in others that the numbers of positive markers they record in their memory need to far outweigh the number of negative ones.

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