Monday, July 8, 2013

MERIDIAN MINUTE no. 13 A Cure for a Complaining

Time to clean up a bad habit?

“... for God loves a cheerful giver.”         
      2 Corinthians 9:7b.  NIV

Complaining is a bad habit. Negativity can be a way of life, a form of an outlook. It has a way of sucking the joy out of everyday occurrences and in finding fault in the little and big things that happen. It also conveys certain messages. These messages can be an underlying structure of disapproval toward others, the government, co-workers, family member’s actions, and those who are perceived as either better-off or worse-off than the complainer. The complainer has it “together,” at least in their own eyes, and is quick to point out the errors in others. Complaining has a way of looking at self and circumstances with an attitude that things should be better than they are, or even that others “owe” them. Distrust, dislike, injured attitudes, seem to join the band-wagon quite easily. Do you like being around a negative person? A person who often looks on the bad side of things? The bad side of people? Someone who gives off a sense of disapproval, a person with the scold about them? Who doesn't forget a wrong or a past indiscretion? In the church it is deadly. It saps up joy and spews it out.

During my early years of teaching it was said to me by someone outside the district that it would be best for me to keep clear of the negative members on staff. It was a general comment made to a novice teacher. But worth paying attention to. I even read this same comment in a teacher book written for beginning teachers. Negative people are draining, and they look for what’s wrong, often failing to observe or give credit to what is right. However, there is a time and place for being constructive in our thinking, but this does differ from being negative. I must confess, by nature I tend to be negative, or better put, I am one of those who see the glass as half empty. Not good! And, it is a life-long habit of mine. What to do?

The glass half empty is not a Christian view when one looks at it from a spiritual perspective. From what little I know, I do know this to be true. Why not? God has given us our lives. He has given us Salvation, re-birth, new life, faith and hope. God is enough in every situation, for the many difficulties we face. He offers Himself as the Resource from which we can draw our sustenance and strength in the many difficulties and issues we face. He is in the business of drawing our gaze to Himself and off of ourselves. The closer we are to God, the more our complaining attitude will be in contrast to the life of hope. When we complain or are negative, we are seeing life from our perspective not through the eyes of Christ, for He sees with love and concern. He calls a spade a spade, sin a sin, and He is just and righteous, but these do not negate His purpose in bringing many sons to glory. An abundant life will not be a life submerged in negativity nor hateful in expression.

The cows come home; my daughter gets my attention. “When you're stressing out, you make me feel stressed. I wish you would quit your job so you won’t be so stressed! It’s hard to be around you, you make me feel depressed.” My teenage daughter said these words out of her frustration during my hardest year of teaching. I was stressed to the max with many pressures and a boatload of expectations handed down by administration. There were several new programs to learn, not to mention a variety of students displaying anti-social behaviors or special needs, plus it was needful to respond to students’ parents who were quick to attack, some through piercing emails. No longer was I teaching in my field as a specialist but I was in-process of getting adjusted to a new assignment. As an experienced teacher with a tender heart, it was all too much. I was drowning in the mire, like being slowly submerged in quicksand. I would come home from a wearying day, in exhaustion I would proceed to vent or unravel in a discharge of complaint while cooking dinner or regrouping as I sprawled in relief on the couch. 

My daughter’s words stung, and they brought me up short. I always want to live a true, real spiritual life, and my wrong attitudes were showing! My actions, attitude, and frustrations were affecting her in a negative way. Enough so, that she wanted me to quit my job. I hate being negative ... but it comes so easily! My oldest son said essentially the same thing to me a couple times that year; he commented that I wasn’t much fun to be around because I always was looking at the bad side of things. He teasingly called me, “Miss Negative.” I really didn’t realize how much it had become a part of me, and I didn’t know to what degree I was being negative or perceived as negative. I love the Lord, and I want to live out my spiritual life, to not compartmentalize the spiritual from the daily stuff of life. I started paying more attention to my words. It was hard work.

And then one day God gave me something to help me overcome this unpleasant trait of a complaining spirit.

God used scripture. It was during a session when I was reading several chapters in the Bible at one sitting. I was reading a chapter in 2 Corinthians when I came to a very familiar verse that ends with “for God loves a cheerful giver.” I like to meditate, so I considered the words and asked myself, “What is a cheerful giver?” My first answering thought was that it is about giving of our money, in reference to the common use of this passage, that we should give a portion of our earnings freely to the Lord. Then I headed another direction with it. If a person is a cheerful giver in all they do, then they will do their giving and their actions without complaint. Giving of their time, energy, resources, and helpfulness, if done in a cheerful manner would, by virtue of the adjective, make it impossible to complain in the same breath. A worthy consideration indeed! Could I do up the evening dishes as a cheerful giver? Could I clean mop, vacuum, and scrub toilets as a cheerful giver? Could I reference my conversations with this same attitude, having a cheerful attitude in all things? I decided then and there that I would to the best of my ability do EVERYTHING as a cheerful giver. Everything! I took these words, “God loves a cheerful giver,” emblazoned them with an indelible imprint into my mind. Being a cheerful giver became my inner motto, a resource I would pull upon day after day, even hour after hour. The scold, the negative comments, the sour attitude began to become less a part of me.

Now, get started....  :)
The process of doing this changed me! The word, cheerful, is what changed me. It has a lot to do with attitude. I found I could not complain if I was giving of myself in a cheerful manner. In all things, if I was cheerful in the doing of it my perception toward the thing was much better. It was freeing. It is a year later now, I’m still not perfect, of course. I have my moments. But I find that negativity no longer has a death-grip on me. It will resurface when I am extra tired or when I am in conversation with a negative person, so I have to activate the phrase during those times. At times, I get lazy and forget to be cheerful in my attitude.. Then I get back on track. As in the KJV where I first read it as a young person,  
“God loveth a cheerful giver.” Amen!

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