After the service Wednesday night, our family compared notes about what we’re giving up, or taking on, for Lent. (Yes, we go down to the wire some years, and have agreed the decision must be made by the end of church on Ash Wednesday.) Sara said that, inspired by a Facebook post by a beloved former teacher, she is giving up negativity.

I was impressed by her choice. My morning starts with checking my email (sometimes negative) and the newspaper (often negative). Cap that off with a morning commute through traffic (yeah) while listening to the news (sigh), and I arrive at work in a less than charitable state of mind. Even when I’m aware of it, that bleak fog is hard to shake some days. Lately, I just glance at the headlines and I listen to music while driving, and it has helped.

But Sara’s decision goes a step further. Not only is she turning away from negativity, she is making a conscious decision not to create any herself. She’s determined to speak and think positively, and express gratitude to others and to the Lord.

As she explained her intent, I realized she had discovered an ideal “little red hen” moment to lead off our observance here. By giving up negativity, she will be giving others encouragement. Rather than chide or chastise them, she will seek ways in which to build them up. Rather than pointing out where they have gone wrong, she can offer her counsel and assistance to help them back onto a better path. Rather than putting them down, she will be lifting them up.

And just imagine what might happen if we all stopped before those negative thoughts rooted in our heads or those harsh words came out of our mouths, and took a moment to center ourselves in warmth and support for each other, and in gratitude and service to the Lord. Wouldn’t our hearts be lighter? Wouldn’t the world be brighter? Wouldn’t we be serving Him better?

Give up negativity: Give encouragement.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45