In 1944 the song “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer became very popular after appearing in the film “Here Come the Waves.” The song helped people in the midst of World War II to focus on something other than war.
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
Mister In-Between was to be avoided. The song was meant to stimulate people into being positive rather than dwelling on the negative which was touted at the key to happiness. It also insisted that there was little middle ground between the positive and negative. You gotta choose, and choosing the positive was the key to happiness.
The Declaration of Independence declared that all people had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness was something we had to pursue for ourselves. Perhaps pursuit of the positive is the key to finding happiness, but it is hard to separate it from the right to life and freedom.
I’ve seen and heard a lot of discussion about freedom lately. The Constitution guarantees us several types of freedom including freedom of speech. While generally speaking we have the right to say what we believe or what we want or don’t want or what we like or don’t like, there are some limitations. One is that we do not have the freedom to incite anyone to violence. So, no, we can’t just say anything that we would like without hindrance or restraint.
Incite is a word that is often associated with violence or chaos or anarchy. It has pejorative connotations, but the word itself simply means to provoke (another word with pejorative connotations), or stir up (slightly less pejorative), or stimulate (well now that word can be ameliorative). Pejorative just means worsening or destructive, while ameliorative means building or strengthening.
Hebrews 10:24 tells us, “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,” In this case we are told to consider how we can provoke or incite or stir up or stimulate others, but not to influence them to do violence or speak hatred. We are told to figure out how to provoke, incite, stir up and stimulate people to love and good deeds.
How are we going to light a fire under people to love each other? How can we give people a shove into the realm of good deeds? How can we stir people up until they want to spread love throughout the land? How can we stimulate people to focus on good instead of evil? How can we incite people to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ?
We won’t do it by demonizing other people. We won’t do it by shaming them either. In order to provoke people to love and good deeds we need to spend more time accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative.