Sure. We also shared some good stuff. I shared how I made it through a bunch of aggravating situations. I praised God for lots of hurdles I cleared, and trials I endured. I even bounced up and down like one of those bouncy balls my grandkids get for a quarter in the bubble-gum machines in restaurant lobbies. I shared lots of good stuff... the mini-miracles. the hope. the way I thought God was moving me forward and upward. HOWEVER...
when I sit back and think about some of the conversations I've had of late, I am ashamed. I am ashamed that I haven't encouraged more than shared discouragement. I know when I am caught in a spiral of downward motion. Sometimes it feels like I'm watching myself from above...like I do when I watch the sink drain and smut go down a garbage disposal. Only, with me, the smut seems to keep on swirling and gets stuck inside my heart and throat.
Sometimes we call it "venting". I grant you, there is a time when we need to vent. It's healthy. It's therapeutic. Experts agree:
"In our society, we're supposed to smile and have a nice day and pretend everything's OK even when it's not. That's unreal," says Barbara Held, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Bowdoin College. She believes that this emphasis on always seeing the bright side can encourage people to mask their unhappiness and swallow their gripes-but that can be toxic. "It's important to learn how to tell friends and family when you're upset-if you don't, you end up alone in your pain. Complaints can be healing".
But habitual venting is addictive. It eats at your soul and robs your spirit of hope and peace. It's also annoying. While some folks may be sponges for our ire and angst, even sponges have their limits to capacity before they leak out all over the place.
"Unhealthy complainers bellyache to anyone who crosses their path and don't pick up on people's cues that they've had their fill of negativity. "Chronic complainers get stuck in victim mode, and that irritates the people around them," says Cunningham. Plus, these types love to talk but rarely listen. "They'll take hours of your time telling you their problems--then they reject your help and don't take one piece of advice you give them," says Kowalski.
Bad complainers are annoying at best, depressing at worst. They spread negativity and give griping a bad name."*
Friends, there's so much more to life than complaining. There's more to friendship than sharing the downs simply because we're down. And when we get into a habit of sharing those blues and blahs and yucks and mucks, the mire turns to putrid quicksand. It is bound to grab hold of us and stick to our spirit and mind. It's bound to weigh us down and keep us looking down rather than looking up. I'm learning who is interested in my joys, my convictions-- those who encourage me when I tell them how I'm trying to move forward.
"There are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints." Rita Dove
"Chronic complainers" drone on and on; they don't take any advice given to them. They don't take well to encouragement. I don't want to be like that. Not long ago I was driving down the road and whining to God about a particular person in my life who I desperately wanted to know my love and accept me for who I was. Then it hit me. "Lord, how do you put up with it? I am telling You about one person in my life who is like millions You deal with every day, all the time. Forgive me."
I have some folks who "vent" and share their burdens with me; I can easily hear their hearts. I don't have a problem listening to them. They not only vent, they appreciate encouragement--they covet my prayers. These are not chronic complainers. Scripture tells us, "Carry one another's burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2.
I want to be the person who not only shares and cares about the burdens and difficulties of others. I want to make a difference in their lives for Christ. If all I do is commiserate with them, I'm no help; I'm a hindrance. I have feet of clay. I need to bow out of their lives and let God connect them with someone who lifts them up and stirs them on. When God shows me my folly, I must aim higher. "I look unto the hills from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD." It's time to point others to the One who makes the difference. "Lord, lift us up."
[ *quotes from WebMd article.]