If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say...

1:17 AM

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It drove me nuts when people did this and I couldn't stand it when they did that and I hate consumer math and the lessons make absolutely no sense and I didn't get any sleep last night and I'm always tired and I don't want to work on my scholarship thingie and I always forget to do laundry and I'm sick of feeling busy and I just want to go to bed but I can't and this hot chocolate tastes really bad.

I said that and a few more paragraphs of complaint until I stopped cold. The blessedly obvious halted my torrents: did I realize how negative I was? Horrible, terrible, horrendous, awful, bad, didn't, not, don't, can't, hate -- they infiltrated my vocabulary. When faced with the prospect of caroling in the cold, I complained about door to door things inevitably go wrong and it would be so cold. (Everybody said it was cold. The running joke and the reality was to say over and over again, "It's freezing!" Duh.) When doing school, I groaned about how I stink at calculating the percent Jane saved in coupons. When talking to my friends, we gripe about school and family and how horrible we feel. And don't get me started on how energetically I can speak about illness. If you're not interested in the details of my sore throat, by golly, you will be.

Nobody likes listening to complaining, but it appears everybody likes the act of complaining itself. Criticizing. Bursting someone's bubble.

It bugged me how obsessed with the mess-ups and boo-boos we are. It drove me crazy (and here I justly complain) how people would point out how badly I'd played the piano after there was nothing I could do about it or how horrible my outfit was two weeks after I'd worn it to church. I couldn't change the past. There wasn't anything edifying or helpful in pointing out that I hit the wrong note or that shapeless shirts don't look good, even in pink. Why bring it up?

It annoyed me how I itched to cut someone down -- either in fun or in earnest. When someone said something stupid, I'd jump to correct them. People always criticized me for criticizing their grammar constantly. It's no fun to be a critical person.

I stop and think. How many criticisms does it take to become a critical person? For we actually become defined by the things we talk about. I know people solely as that grumpy guy or the girl who complains about everything or the one who cuts me down or the one who never admits to being wrong. Our negativity defines us.

Our jokes are negative. Our talk about friends and family is negative. Our complaints about trials and problems are negative. Our talk radio and politics and essays are negative. Bailey negatively writes about negativity.

Obviously we cannot escape negativity altogether. Some things are genuinely negative. Things stink. People fail. That does not console my embarrassment and remorse at how vocal (and frequently so) I am about life's aches and pains. And that does not interest me in reading, listening to or caring about the nonstop negativity coming from others -- unless, of course, it gives me a platform to air my own woes.

What amuses me the most is how clever people (I?) think they are when they complain. I find great joy in pointing out grammatical oopsies and the philosophical faux pas. I always seem intelligent when delving deeper into how and why something bothers me. I feel self-important in dissecting, blow by blow, my complaints, especially when an audience is involved. A genuine joke or a pleasant feeling passes in a second -- it's the complaints that get the encore. (My sisters and I love growling over the nasty and/or absurd comments we get. Especially the ones from two years ago. Always.)

Really, there's nothing clever at all in find something terrible, hurtful or annoying about this broken world. From infancy we train ourselves to survive by the art of complaint, to buoy our depression with sarcasm, and anything else that strikes our ears sounds incredibly strange. I think it takes more observation and more sensitivity to talk about the good things -- to praise, to wonder, to appreciate. Much more. So much more that if we followed that wet blanket adage, "If you don't have anything to say, don't say it at all," we'd not have much to say.

Don't believe me? Try it. Keep score of how many complaints you and your family make in a fifteen minute period -- from the flippant to the serious. It'll have you scuttling to write a thousand encouraging notes. At the very least, it'll get you complaining.

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9 impressions

  1. Example: It finally snowed today. Still, we're having a Brown Christmas, it seems to me.

    Today, I complain about there being no snow.

    Couple weeks later, I'll be moaning about the five foot drifts.

    See? We're born-'n'-bred complainers. And for those of you who aren't, I give lessons for free. Just hang out with me for a day.

  2. And for the record, my cup of hot chocolate tasted good today.

  3. I'm also a complainer. About a month or so ago, I really started to notice...so, I'm making a conscious effort to be more positive.

    It doesn't always work out so great. :)

    But I'm trying.


  4. Yep...yep...yep....mmmhmm....

    "Yikeths. I think a lot those things fit my words. :P," *She said, positively.*

    I'm praying about this one!

  5. Oh dear...I failed miserably. Although I truly hope I didn't mention your shapeless shirt (do we have a shapeless pink shirt? I didn't see one in the closet today...)

    It is so easy to complain, because it's so hard to be joyful. I complained the whole time I tried to fix a doll Caroline broke (which was connected by rubbers bands - that dolly -)...


  6. I think complaining is inevitable, to be honest. I am not justifying it by any means, but like you pointed out, from infancy we train ourselves to complain everytime something is wrong with our world...our sinful nature also has something to do with it, I'm sure. :)

    Eh, I'm just rambling your point now. I'll leave it at this; good job, Bailey dear. :)

  7. Oh, Bethany -- I'm to blame for that. I came across that jumbled up doll, choked on frustration and arranged it carefully on the dresser for you to find. (We have one shapeless fuschia shirt, but I've never worn it to church because it's...yeah.)

    And you're right, Alexxus -- complaining is inevitable until we purpose to do something about it. And sometimes we need a good cry, a good complaint...just not 24/7.

  8. Have you seen this before? It's called the 17th Century Nun's Prayer. I don't know the history of it--whether it's a legend or the real deal--but I love it anyway. I keep a copy of it on my fridge to help me keep a rein on my tongue. It doesn't always work. (It's a little bit tongue-in-cheek, which is why I love it so.)


    Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old.

    Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

    Keep my mind free from the recital of endless detail: give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace to enjoy the tales of other's pain but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

    Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint - some of them are so hard to live with -- but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.


  9. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all....

    LOL! I mean, amen.


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