top of page

Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity happens when we do not validate others' thoughts and feelings. We don’t listen to understand others' experiences and emotions. It happens when we say things like just quote scriptures, or pray, or focus on the positives and everything will get better or the situation will improve or resolve. I believe in prayer. I believe in scriptures. I believe God cares. I also believe that healing happens either instantaneously, gradually, or that it happens in heaven. Each of us is different and each situation is different. When we use toxic positivity with people it causes their feelings not to be validated. It makes them feel like their issue is not important or they aren’t doing the right things, the right way to resolve their problems. It minimizes their pain. They don’t feel heard. It can turn people away from church and away from a connection with God. It also makes people feel like feelings are wrong and that they must push all their feelings down and pretend they don’t exist. The reality is that our feelings are charge neutral. They are not right or wrong. They just are feelings that well up inside of us from our experiences and our thoughts. Pushing away these feelings causes parts of us to be suffocated. It doesn’t allow us to be who we are. The other thing is that pushing away all emotions only allows us to access some feelings. We become insensitive to the pain and suffering of others. It also doesn’t allow us to become good listeners. We don’t listen to hear. We listen with our own agenda. This is not healthy.

For years I attended a church where I was forced to put on a mask. That mask was one of pretending that I was okay when underneath I was struggling deeply with sorrow, sadness, exhaustion, worries, stress, suicidal thoughts, anxiety . . . The myriad of feelings inside of me were overwhelming. I was supposed to pretend I was okay but what this did was that it ate away on the inside of me and almost destroyed me. When I finally walked away from this toxic church environment, I began to embrace the fact that it was okay to not be okay. God helped me begin the process of recovery and healing. I began to realize that denial was a dangerous thing. It allows the wounds inside to fester and become unhealthy. We can’t heal an outside wound by pretending it’s not there. What happens when we deny that we have a sore is that it becomes infected. It becomes worse. We can develop a dangerous infection that can kill us. The same is true on the inside of us. Denial is dangerous. It can cause the inside of us to fester and become unhealthy. This can lead to physical and mental illnesses.

Every emotion has a positive characteristic for us. Selfishness has a healthy place for each of us as it allows us the opportunity to take care of ourselves so we can in turn care for others. Sadness allows us time to self-reflect and begin to process why we feel that way. Anger can help us understand that our boundaries are off. Pushing away these feelings hurts us. We miss out on the positives that these feelings bring to our lives.

I will never forget the day I was wrestling with pain that the editing process of my book uncovered as I prepared it for publication. Inside I was raw with the pain of grief. My heart and mind were hurting but I decided to attend church. During that church service, I was told to just pray and claim scriptures, and then all the feelings from grief would go away. This angered me and I countered this person's thoughts. Three times I brought up stories to help shift this thinking. Everyone felt I was wrong. Inside I was hurting deeply and felt their callous insensitive remarks just wounded me more deeply. In the end, I decided to step away from this group. It wasn’t healthy. They minimized others' pain, including my own. What I needed that day was for someone to just listen to understand. Instead, I was unheard and my thoughts were discounted.

Healing from our internal pain happens when our pain is listened to and validated. We must not be afraid of our emotions and feelings. Every single one of them brings blessings to us. They all help us become the person we were intended to be.

I choose to stop disowning these feelings because of what others say or because of my own experiences. I want to be whole. To be whole I must reclaim each of the emotions God has created. They do have things to teach me and I am eager to embrace each of them.

My prayer for each of you is that you will begin to embrace the fact that feelings are not right or wrong. They just are how you are feeling and it is perfectly okay to not be okay. I pray that each of you will embrace this and begin the process of internal reflection so that you can find the healing and peace that you need in your lives. God aches for the inner pain inside of you to heal. May you find peace and sanity in your lives. May hope begin to be restored in each of your lives.


bottom of page