Faith without Pretence: Navigating Toxic Positivity
In recent years, the idea of toxic positivity has been making waves, challenging the age-old adage of;always staying positive; or the newer one “good vibes only.” It’s high time we question the impact of this relentless push for optimism, especially within the Christian faith.
Toxic positivity is all about going overboard with positive vibes, brushing aside any sign of negativity or suffering. It's like always wearing a smile, no matter what life throws your way. While positivity is generally a good thing, toxic positivity might not be the best route to take. It's crucial to remember that life is a blend of joys and sorrows, and being truly positive doesn't mean pretending everything is perfect all the time.
In Christianity there is a strong emphasis on hope and trust in God, but that doesn't mean we have to be a perpetual ray of sunshine. Even the sun sets at the end of each day and the coolness of evening sets in. The Bible itself is full of examples where people express sadness, question God, and go through tough and dark times, just take a glance at Psalms. Toxic positivity doesn't align with this holistic view of the human life, and it can stunt our emotional growth while limiting our faith's potential.
Consider the story of Job, who endured immense suffering yet did not adopt a toxic positivity stance. He questioned God, expressed his pain, and engaged in deep conversations about his anguish. Ultimately, this allowed Job to find solace and understanding in God's presence, showing that faith doesn't mean suppressing the full range of human emotions, but openly expressing our inner world. When we buy into toxic positivity, we end up ignoring other people's pain and struggles which leaves people disconnected and alone in their suffering. We can feel like we have to hide our own emotions, which only leads to guilt and shame when we can't keep up the act. It also hinders us from talking about crucial topics like mental health and grief, as it perpetuates the idea that we should just be positive; in the face of any adversity.
Toxic positivity also paints an inaccurate picture of the Christian faith, making it seem like an escape from reality. But real faith means accepting our humanity, facing suffering, and finding strength through divine grace and love. We can draw inspiration from the life of Jesus, who, despite his divine nature, wept, felt anger, and expressed deep compassion. His authenticity shows that faith is not about suppressing emotions but about finding comfort and strength through a genuine relationship with the God is Love, even in our darkest moments.
Faith, when approached in its true form, encourages us to embrace the full range of emotions. The idea of shalom, often translated as peace, means finding wholeness and restoration in God's presence, even in lifes suffering. True peace doesn't come from ignoring our emotions or faking positivity; it comes from finding comfort in God, who is a close as our breath, during lifes challenges. Authentic faith promotes the cultivation of empathy, offering comfort to those who mourn, listening to the distressed, and seeking justice for the oppressed. This holistic perspective recognises the importance of acknowledging and addressing both the positive and negative experiences of life, often holding both at the same time.
While positivity and optimism have their place, we need to be cautious about falling into the trap of toxic positivity, especially in our faith. An unrelenting focus on positivity can stifle genuine emotional experiences, hamper personal growth, and dull the transformative power of Love.
I wonder how our inner experience of suffering and our outer expression of pain would change if we were to embrace a more comprehensive view of life and faith, one that acknowledges and addresses the full spectrum of human emotions. Perhaps we could truly live into a life of faith without pretence.
Elise is a qualified Trauma-Informed Counsellor and Coach with a steadfast commitment to facilitating the recovery and personal growth of individuals who have experienced trauma. Her unwavering dedication to this profession is deeply rooted in her personal journey through trauma and abuse. Elise has lived experience of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), affording her firsthand insight into the challenges of finding a path towards recovery. Having experienced the transformative potential of a professionally guided safe environment for trauma recovery, she now devotes her life to extending this invaluable support to others. Website: eliseheerde.com