How many of us, when we first came to Christ, began to awaken to the fact that attitudes living within us were far from the ways of Christ? While God gives us the strength we need to act as he has instructed, we must keep a careful watch over our hearts and tongues. Anybody who has been a part of the church knows that while Jesus is perfect, his people are not (yet).
Because of this, he has offered us his saving grace. God loves us enough to set us free from mindsets, temperaments, and routines that draw us away from love. The following attitudes will not only pollute the life of an individual, but they also aggravate the people who have to come in contact with such poisonous dispositions. We must refuse to spread darkness and look for the freedom that comes from daily seeking to be more like Jesus.
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1. Superiority Complex
Have you ever met someone who seemed to work under the presumption that they were above the general population? Even if this type of attitude most often stems from deep, unsettling inadequacy in the individual, it can simply be annoying to be around. Romans 15:1-2 clearly states, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” It does not say that those who are strong should make everyone else feel small.
If you are tempted to act as though you are higher than others, the best way to fix this attitude problem is to remember how small you actually are. The swiftest cure is to look up at God. Take the time to read Job 38 and try and answer the questions God sets before Job, "Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?...” It goes on, but anyone who reads God’s words quickly gets the idea. In the grand scheme of things, you are but dust. However, God still chose to love you and because of that your value is beyond measure; keep in mind that this is not just true for you—it’s true for all his people.
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2. Comfortable in Complacency
When the world feels chaotic and its problems too big, it is easy to give up on hope for change. Complacency doesn’t tend to get on the nerves of others as much as some of the other attitudes we have covered, but it still impacts the Kingdom of God. If the devil can’t make you hurt others, he may settle for keeping you from helping others. It is tempting to become numb to the pain and sorrow in the world, but it is not the life to which we are called. God does not ignore the pain of the world and neither should we. Hebrews 6:10-12 offers great encouragement to keep working for his Kingdom: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”
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3. Glory Seekers
Credit should be given when it is due, but when people strive for recognition by running others over, accept praise for work that is not their own, and push their way to the front time after time, the quest for distinction chips away at dignity. This proclivity often stems from a fractured need to prove one’s worth and justify their existence; recognition only satisfies this thirst for a moment. Value and justification are only fully satisfied in Christ.
We must realize we can do nothing of eternal value disconnected from the one who reigns over eternity. Isaiah 66:2 says, “‘Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the LORD. ‘These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.’” People are not quick to admit that they try to steal from God, but even Christians are tempted to hold to a bit of God’s glory and keep it for themselves. We don’t need to try and demand the spotlight. It cannot save us.
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4. Blame Throwers
People have been passing the buck, trying to make others culpable for their problems and sins since the beginning. When God questioned Adam and Eve about their blatant disobedience, the blame was quickly passed. Genesis 3:11-12 shows what transpired when God first questioned Adam, “‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’ The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’”
That didn’t work as well as either Adam or Eve had hoped, and they were still both given consequences for their choices. You can try to not take responsibility for your own life and choices, but God who sees all and will not be fooled. You will be accountable for your actions. Romans 14:12 should be enough of a motivator for any of us tempted to try and escape responsibility by blaming others, because the truth is not ambiguous. It says, “So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.”
5. Nasty People
Some people are just mean. Who knows why they do it? But we do know it's no fun to be around. Impatience, cruelty, and vengeance plague our world, and unfortunately, sometimes these characteristics are applauded. However, those who have been made new need not give in to spite; nastiness is the battle cry of a desperate and jaded world fighting for their own desires. We know Jesus has already won the battle, and there is no need to forsake kindness for harsh and hateful acts. Those who are in Christ have exchanged desperation for rest. The Bible repeatedly warns of the dangers of anger and the benefits of kindness, and the trials of life are not solved by spite. The people of Christ are overcomers. We, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
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6. Pity Petitioners
Yes, we are commanded in Galatians 6:2 to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Yet there are some people who use this verse to justify their terrible attitudes. There is a difference between people who need someone to come alongside them to help carry the burden of life and someone who is always seeking pity. Sometimes a need for attention works itself out in this way.
A person can be in a position where they have struggled to find a way to receive approval from others, so they turn to petitioning for pity. They always have a sad story, a new emergency, or an urgent need, and do very little to live with the wisdom needed to remedy their persistent state of crisis. Healthy people can best help those with this type of attitude not by constantly giving them the reward they seek (attention through pity), but instead by implementing the verse that appears right before the instruction to bear one another's burdens: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
If we truly desire to help people, we must work to restore them, not just allow them to continue on in cycles of self-centeredness. We draw boundaries where appropriate, encourage them to find a way to serve others, and remind them to seek God for all their needs because he cares for them.
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7. The Proud and Haughty
Pride can be sneaky and destructive. It keeps people from asking for help when they need it, it has people covering their pain when they are hurting, and it builds walls of pretension between God and man. Isaiah 5:21 warns, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.”
In Johnathan Edwards’ “Advice to Young Converts” he encourages believers to “Remember that pride is the worst viper that is in the heart, the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ. It was the first sin that ever was, and lies lowest in the foundation of Satan’s whole building.” Pride may wear different faces but it always destroys.
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8. Passive-Aggressive Agitators
This attitude haunts many relationships. These people are fearful of confronting others and feel a lack of resolution because of the repressed emotion. When emotions of offense or frustration are not addressed with resolution or forgiveness, some people choose to seethe. This resentment can then begin to express itself through the silent-treatment, dirty looks, and in extreme cases indirect acts of retaliation as seen in 2 Samuel 14:29-30 when Joab does not respond to Absalom as Absalom would prefer, “Then Absalom sent for Joab in order to send him to the king, but Joab refused to come to him. So he sent a second time, but he refused to come. Then he said to his servants, “Look, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there. Go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire.”
Even if you have avoided arson, the passive-aggressive route for dealing with emotion is ungodly because it is filled with cowardice, bitterness, and often accompanied by untruths such as declarations of “I’m fine!” when it is obvious that the person is anything but.
God loves his people and does not expect them to walk around ignoring sin and filled with irritation. He wants them to address their problems amongst each other and reconcile. Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”
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9. Negativity Spreaders
When you hear of someone’s new idea or even find yourself dreaming a new dream, do you instantly jump to why it won’t work—why it won’t be worth it? The problem with always assuming the negative is that it is often fueled by fear, which can leave an individual feeling paralyzed to act. It can also lead to depression and anxiety if left unconstrained. People who let their thoughts dwell in what was, is, and always will be wrong have often forsaken trusting in the strength of the mighty God who was, is, and always will be.
For those who find themselves forever waiting for the axe to fall, focusing on God’s goodness is the needed remedy. The world is full of chaos and distress. “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18)
10. Me-First Lovers
Most bad attitudes can be traced back to selfishness, but that does not make interacting with those who demand to be first any less irritating. Even the apostle John would find himself irked by the inclination. He said, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” 3 John 9-10
Our attitudes are one of the ways we serve our Lord and glorify our savior. We cannot be known for only serving ourselves - that is the way of the world. We do not want to be like those seen in Isaiah 56:11, “They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, they seek their own gain.”
All must decide what they think about God, and those who choose to follow his ways submit their attitudes to his commands. The great news is that in doing so we see our own dispositions become loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, and kind. We find ourselves stepping into abundant life when we let Jesus be Lord of our attitudes.
Chara Donahue is a co-author of the Bible study 1, 2 & 3 John: Experiencing Transformation and is working on her next book. She enjoys serving as a biblical counselor, speaking to women, and savoring coffee when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds an MSEd from Corban University, is passionate about seeing people set free through God's truths, and is the founder and editor of Anchored Voices. Get in touch with her on Facebook or Twitter.
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Originally published Monday, 17 February 2020.