Toxic Positivy: Replacementism

How toxic positivity tries to replace healing

When I was in college, I read a ton of books and articles on theology. A lot of it is what is called apologetics. Basically, these are books, articles, lectures, and other such things designed to tell you how someone else is wrong and reinforce what the reader or listener already believes. If an atheist comes along and picks up John Macarthur’s book Final Word: Why We Need the Bible, there is not a good chance he is going to be convinced of the Bible’s truth or authenticity. But a Christian picks that book up, and she is going to be empowered and inspired by proof of what she already believes to be true.

I remember, when I was younger, going to a Promise Keeper’s rally with my dad and a group of men from our church. In the sermon right before a lunch break, the speaker stood in front of a stadium full of men and got everyone all hyped up about doctrine and what we all in the room believed and eventually had the room chanting, “I’M RIGHT, YOU’RE WRONG!” over and over again. The idea being that we were right, because we were Christians, and the rest of the world was wrong because they were not.

Outside, as we stood by our bus, eating the sack lunches that we had brought with us, a group of men from the rally got into a confrontation with some protestors. Yelling and screaming ensued, with both groups trying to convince the other of the true gospel. And it ended with a bunch of men from the rally yelling at these other men, “I’M RIGHT, YOU’RE WRONG!”

For many, reading these books and going to these rallies became a replacement for what the Christian faith was actually supposed to be in their lives.

During that time when I was going to these rallies and reading these sorts of books, I came across a set of beliefs within Christianity called “Replacement Theology”. To oversimplify the matter, Replacement Theology teaches that, when Jesus came and died on the cross and established the Christian church, he was saying that God was done with Israel as his chosen people. Now the church is his chosen people. God replaced Israel with the church at the point in the story where Jesus dies on the cross.

Much as people came along and tried to change the narrative and replace Israel with “the church” in Christianity, some have come along and are trying to change the healing narrative and replace true healing with positive thinking. This is a problem for a ton of reasons, but let us just focus on the big ones.

First, it is absolutely false. It is true that sadness is only temporary, but sadness is not the same as clinical depression. People do not just wake up one day and decide that they are going to think negatively and be sad. But they do wake up and wish they were not getting up. They do wake up and wish they were dead. They do wake up and pull the covers back over their heads and curl up in the dark. A person can be happier than they have ever been and things can be going better for them than it ever has in their entire life, but that does not mean that depression is not waiting to knock them to the ground.

Telling someone that they just need to change their mindset, while maybe helping them for a few seconds to forget their depression, is not going to fix a chemical imbalance that can only be fixed by medication. This leads me right to the second reason toxic positivity is a problem.

Toxic positivity is downright dangerous.

Attempting to change your mindset is not a replacement for actually healing what is damaged that is causing the negativity and depression to creep up in the first place. One can be the happiest person in the world, or look like the happiest person in the world, and still wish they were dead.

It’s like The Joker. He shows up to work every day, paints his face on, and goes out to make people laugh. When really, he just wants to kill himself and destroy everyone around him. Because life is a bitch and sucks and he is unable to afford his mom’s medication.

A motivational pep talk every morning is not going to get rid of any underlying issues that lead to heartache or negative mindsets. We can fake it till we make it, but only for so long, unless we address why we need to fake it in the first place.

Not dealing with those underlying issues can, in itself, be very dangerous. But more on that next time.

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If this has resonated with you in any way, give some applause and share this on your social media platform of choice. Feel free to send me a message on Facebook or an email at jeremyzerbycoaching@yahoo.com. I would love to talk. I am a certified life coach and a former minister. Helping others is in my blood.

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Jeremy Zerby

Jeremy Zerby

Hermeneutics, religion, pop psychology, self-help, and culture. They are all connected, and I am here to explain how.