When I was an active cop writing articles about patrol issues for the police guild newspaper, The Guardian, critics accused me of being “negative.” There was even a faction within the department who held that a “negative” officer could bring other officers down. Negativity begets negativity and all that. There’s some truth to that. But is that what I was doing? The issue is more nuanced than the black and white of being positive versus being negative.
Outright lefty, city critics just plain disagreed with (hated) my viewpoint. You know, I was not only negative but also evil. But ask anyone who knows me, despite my criticisms of today’s political left, I’m generally optimistic. You’ll likely see in nearly every article I write at least an attempt at a dollop of humor. I think levity is necessary for a happy life. You know that saying: if you don’t laugh you have to cry. That’s a true story, right there.
Think about this: what if every time you expressed a comment about something important to you, someone who disagrees with you told you “Shut up, you’re just being negative!” At a job before I got into police work, I’d been promoted to manager sometime earlier, with a raise and increased benefits promised to come “later.”
I scheduled another meeting with the company owner to talk about my future and when my promised raise would kick in. As the meeting started, the boss said, “We can talk, but we’re not going to discuss salary and benefits. I don’t want this to be a negative meeting.” Under this premise, could we ever discuss it?
To broaden the perspective, do we look back on history and say people like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, or anyone who fights for change, were just being negative? Should they not have fought for their goals because their critics considered what they were doing to be “negative”? Think about Sam Adams and his Boston Tea Party. I’m thinking ol’ King George sure thought Sam was being “negative.”
The context, perspective, and goal is an important distinguishing feature of any worthy issue. If you believe something needs to be changed, improved, implemented, or rescinded…you need to speak out. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to your cause. And though your critics may believe you should take a different, more positive approach or employ alternate tactics, you must, as Shakespeare admonished us “this above all,” be true to yourself.
So, go ahead. Dare to be negative. Just do it in a positive way.