Bad Company...

courtesy of istockphoto

"Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character." 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)

Bad company corrupts peacefulness, good humor, good judgment, self-worth, self-esteem, and faith. It corrupts truth, reliability and responsibility. And all the good things associated with what we have determined to be of good character. Have you ever watched the news and seen a story where the neighbors describe a typically good kid who fell in with the wrong crowd? Bad company takes the good in a person and strangles it until those good qualities are overrun by tiny seeds of doubt that sprout and quadruple as weeds in your thought garden. Sit with that for a second.

Now, take a look at the picture above.

Which one are you?

The optimist on the left? Or the pessimist on the right? The one who looks for the solution? Or the one who always focuses on the problem? The one who chooses faith? Or the one who chooses fear? The one who encourages others? Or the one who constantly criticizes? Win-win for everyone? Win-lose in your favor - always? The one who accepts responsibility? Or the one who places blame at everyone else's feet? Next question...

Who do you associate with?

A bad friend is not only someone who speaks badly about you or betrays your confidence. A bad friend is also someone who does not encourage you to be your best. Not only in what they say to you, but how they live their own lives. Have you ever been around a young child who drops a toy and Bam! &%$#@*& comes out? (And it's used properly too.)

*Gasp!* Little One! Don't say that. That is a bad word. Where did you get that? Little One drops her head."When you dropped your keys in the snow last week, you said..."

Yep. Brace yourself for the barrage of questions to come...

Are you a good friend to yourself? Do you encourage yourself? Do you hold yourself to a standard that is not brought about by a competition with someone else? Do you talk yourself out of mediocrity? Or do you encourage and accept it?

I have a scenario for you.

You and your bestie are two babies learning to walk. One of you is on one end of the sofa. The other is on the opposite end.

As the baby on the left, it's likely that you've fallen down a few times, even bumped your head. But it doesn't stop you from holding onto the side of the sofa and trying again. After awhile, your friend's negative words and attitudes will begin to rub off on you. Where you might be willing to let go of the sofa and maybe even pick up speed, the risk of incurring your friend's criticism may deter you. Or you may have decided, based on your friend's grumblings, that letting go of the sofa is stupid or can't be achieved because their daily "pessimisms" whisper to you even when you are sitting at opposite corners of the living room sofa.  

If you're the one on the right, you've likely fallen, too. But your success at learning to walk is hampered by your own insecurities. You've plopped down onto your pamper...and stayed there. If this is you, how is this working for you? Do you find yourself in a rut often? Do you find yourself losing baby friends? Or do you hang around with people who speak the same language as you? Waah, wahhh, waaaahhhhh! 

Something to ponder... As the baby on the left - if you've managed to shake off the negative thoughts -  you will always go to the other end of the sofa to meet your friend because her self-imposed limitations have relegated her to her end of the sofa. It's not likely that she will meet you half way or even come down to your end. You're in a relationship where you are constantly giving and she is always taking. That's a relationship that will bring about resentment because there is no balance.

As a tween/teen, I believed that my feet were too big. They actually were big for my height back then, but eh. My glasses and braces were more of a concern. The issue became greater in my head, however, because I had an older family member who constantly made snide comments about them. That's when I began to buy shoes in a smaller size. Needless to say, my feet suffered.

The negative thoughts (that I allowed her to fuel) about my feet drove me directly to Bunion City. It may have been a trip I would have never made, except the grumblings in my ear sealed it in my psyche. Sure, I got teased about my glasses but that was by classmates. That didn't (always) count. That's what we did. My family member was older and I held her in higher regard. She had an influence over me. Now, a different friend with a different outlook may have said, okay, they are big, but it's not a big deal. Or she would have said, maybe if you buy black sneakers, they'll appear smaller. But that wasn't who I got in the card shuffle. 

Your own outlook and your choice in friends determines a lot about your success in life. Whether you'll try or not try. Persevere or quit. Trust or not trust. Love or not love. 

As I got older, the pain of wearing the shoes that didn't fit forced me to wear my size. And soon afterward, I got better at choosing friends who were "my size." Not perfect, but better. 

I've had my fair share of doubts and negative thoughts. But I grew into a new person the day (not too long ago) that I truly understood that Christ died because He loved me so much. That's a love that no one can replicate or duplicate. He had no motives. He needed nothing from me. In fact, He knew me, but I was thousands of years from arriving on this Earth when He laid down His life. That's an outrageous kind of love that brings about change. When you know that someone loves you without a price tag or motive, it's life changing. It changed the conversations I had with myself. And who I allowed to speak into my life.

Christ died for me so that I could have eternal (and abundant) life in Him.

What do I mean by abundant life?

Abundance is defined as a very large quantity of something. For me an abundant life is a life filled with a very large quantity of love, joy, peace, and tranquility. I cannot have that if I allow a negative mindset to overtake me. When things are bad - because love, joy, peace, and tranquility are not based on all circumstances being good - I keep my thoughts focused on the plans that God has for me - which I believe because of His word and because He has been faithful. If I wallow in the sadness of the bad times, I will have missed the opportunity to see the lesson in that journey and to be grateful for the things that are good during those bad times: like being able to breathe, witnessing God's strength and power.

How do we have abundant life? We do not allow negative thoughts and negative people to influence our decisions or beliefs.Those negative thoughts and people are a deterrent to the life that God has for you and me. If we think poorly of ourselves, like the babies we talked about earlier, we will doubt that we can walk and will not make further attempts to walk. Never mind that our back, legs, and torso are strong enough or that they inherently know how to work together with the muscles and ligaments to facilitate movement. We don't have to know how the walking thing works, we just have to believe we can do it.

And not allow bad company to tell us otherwise.

Originally posted on this website on February 17, 2015.