Long before I returned to God, I used to keep a collection of what I referred to as “Cool Sayings”; tidbits of advice and pithy remarks discovered in books or articles; most attributed to a famous person, several from anonymous sources and even a few to people I personally know. I think I amassed over five typed pages of these fonts of wisdom with each one speaking to some part of myself; something that I needed to hear just at that particular point in my life when I stumbled across it. Here are a few of my favorites:
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Elliott
“Never give way to malice. It turns the best men into fools.” Henry VIII (he should have taken his own advice, methinks!)
“There is a time for departure even when there is no certain place to go.” Tennessee Williams
“I’ve seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it never came to pass.” Mark Twain
“The sea that calls all things unto her calls me, and I must embark.” Kahlil Gibran
“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln
“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” Bette Davis
“You can tell a lot about a person’s character by the way they play cards.” Kathleen Wheeler
“And remember, my sentimental friend. A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” The Wizard to the Tin Man from the movie “The Wizard of Oz”
I could go on and on! But, here is the quote that embodies the theme of this blog post:
“Change your thoughts, and you change your world.” Norman Vincent Peale
If you think about this, isn’t it the truth? So very simple, so very true; not always so very easy to accomplish, however.
Like eliminating any bad habit, tackling negative thinking takes time and energy. It’s also takes patience and persistence.
About a year ago, I was reading one of my daily devotional books “Jesus Calling” as I do every morning. On this particular day, I was in the midst of some minor crisis of thinking brought on either by the reality of events or perhaps just the way I was contemplating them. Basically, what that day’s message said was (paraphrasing): “Trusting (in Jesus) keeps one from obsessing and worrying (not that I have an issue with THAT, ha ha ha) and having a thankful and grateful heart keeps one from the “sister sins” of criticizing and complaining.”
Profound. Because, seriously, how can ugly crap pour out of your mouth if it’s already filled up with the sweetness of gratitude? How many of us would pop a delectable morsel of our most favorite food or drink in our mouths, only to pollute it by also stuffing some noxious substance in there with it?
There’s a lot of noxious complaining that occurs on Facebook. Perhaps one of the reasons I don’t mind quite so much giving it up for Lent is that it’s kinda nice to get away from some of that negativity. This realization got me to thinking that I’m sure I do plenty of my own belly-aching, whether on Facebook or otherwise. “How much time do I spend complaining?” I wondered. I didn’t know, but, I decided to give the complaints up for Lent and find out.
So, here we are Day Nine of Lent and I’ll be totally honest. Giving up Facebook is TONS easier than giving up complaining. I really didn’t realize how much negativity creeps in throughout the day, how many opportunities there are to BITCH. Because I am conscious of it now, I have literally bitten down on my tongue several times in the past week to keep from saying something that is not deserving of entering into the air space between me and whomever I’m talking to (or me and no one, if I happen to be sitting by myself somewhere irritated about something). I’ve learned (and I know I’ll keep on learning in the next month) that there is a huge difference between acknowledging an issue and requesting or desiring a change vs. going on and on and on and ON about it. And, I’ve noticed the times I fail and engage in the on and on and on behavior, I feel really crappy.
Right before Lent, I read a great article on the difference between constructive and destructive complaining. Actually, I’d call the constructive complaining “feedback”.
Constructive: “Waiter. I ordered my hamburger medium rare and this is well done. Please take this back and bring me one cooked the way I ordered.”
Destructive: “Waiter. I can’t believe this. I ordered my hamburger medium rare and you brought me this inedible piece of shoe leather. What? You didn’t write down what I said? I demand that you bring me what I ordered ASAP or else I’m walking out of this joint! (to dining companions) Crap! I can’t believe this! Doesn’t anyone know how to do their job these days? This place is over rated and expensive. You’d think they’d at least be able to hire staff that could find their butts with both hands. I don’t know, what do you think? Should we just get up and leave? Screw them. I’m not paying for my beer and they can forget about a tip!”
Whew. Just writing that got me tense! Ok, most of us wouldn’t complain quite so drastically about an over cooked burger, but, you catch my drift.
In this example, not only is the complainer angry and out of control, imagine how the waiter is feeling, as well as the dining companions. I can’t think of any positive vibes flowing from this exchange.
I’ve handled some challenges well this past week; recognizing that it’s ok to feel disappointed and/or desire a change but complaining will do little good. A few others, well, I’ll admit to feeling some boiling blood and my mouth started flapping on its own accord. Afterwards, not only was the unfortunate situation still there, I felt physically unwell on top of it. Thankfully, I managed to keep from being rude or abusive to anyone but admittedly, I was thinking rude and abusive thoughts.
But, hey. How great that I have the opportunity each day to wake up and try harder, not just for my own benefit, but for the benefit of others.
Although I still cherish all of those “Cool Sayings” I have stored away in a Word document on my computer, I find myself now turning to the Bible and all of its wisdom when faced with any and all situations and challenges. These, too, present themselves to me just at the time I need to hear them. I now have a long (growing) list of “Cool Scripture Verses” stored in my heart.
“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29