Mom and Dad came in for a visit last weekend. Mom accompanied me to church on Sunday. The message was the last in a series titled “Zip It” – and the topic was “Monitoring our Negativity”. The message reminds Christians of a behavior that can turn unbelievers away from God if we’re not careful, but anyone can apply it, of course. We have greater reasons for focusing on the positive in our attitudes and behavior, reasons greater than being pleasant company and avoiding a trip down misery lane.
It’s a perfect day to talk about this topic that is plainly addressed in the Bible.
Philippians 2:14 tells us to “Do everything without complaining or arguing”…
It rained last night, May 16 is another gray day in the low 60s, following several days of rain, thunderstorms, and generally gloomy weather. It’s easy to complain about the weather, isn’t it?
Since I accepted Christ into my heart, I must say that God has enabled me to personally overcome a former, noticeable tendency to complain and think negative thoughts. It’s been a gradual process, in a similar way to my overall journey as a growing Christian. I could not have done it on my own, and the change did not happen overnight. And still, I do grumble or think negatively sometimes, but I’m not the complainer I used to be.
As always, Pastor Paul addresses this type of topic by including himself as someone who has to work on it.
My post today is a blend and summary of the outline for the weekend message and the notes for our small group Bible study.
At Small Group, we start out discussing how we lived our personal application from the previous week. We proceed with the introductory “In a Nutshell”: …..It’s so easy to drift toward negativity – to drift toward griping and complaining: ….We choose to complain and nitpick instead of searching for a solution. Without even realizing it, we’re on a roll of negativity. Our whole attitude is infected, contaminated with negativity. If we want to live a truly happy life, we’ll need to change the way we dwell on the things that bother us. Rather than zeroing in on the negative and complaining, we need to take a step back and look at our frustrations from a different perspective. The Scripture gives us some valuable insight and practical advice on how to convert our negativity into something positive.
Do everything without complaining or arguing…Philippians 2:14 (NIV)
Quote: “Arguing is when our complaining spills over into conversations, when our misery seeks to manipulate others to comply with our complaints.” (Brian Bill)
1. What do you complain about most? What have you complained about today?
My answers: A) Mostly, I grumble about other people not meeting my expectations…how they drive, how they take up the whole aisle at WalMart, and at work, they don’t pay attention to detail when completing our request form. Sometimes it’s about the things that make housework more difficult, or the rising cost of anything.
B) I haven’t complained out loud yet today, but I’m thinking…..My neck and shoulder area are sore. My throat is somewhat sore and scratchy. My husband left his socks in the living room. If this person provided the right information from the start, I wouldn’t need to do a revision.
Quote: Complaining is like bad breath, you notice it when it comes out of somebody else’s mouth, but not your own. – Will Bowen
2. Do you think it’s possible to complain and gripe and not be aware of it? Explain.
(My answer) Yes. I think this is true if you are normally around other people that complain or have a generally negative attitude. You feel like part of the group – it’s normal.
If you don’t listen to yourself, if you fail to monitor your own words, perhaps you might not notice yourself being a complainer. From my experience, I did notice it, I did care, but it was a habit that was difficult to break especially because I did have stress as a working mother, and my job was beneath the expectations I had for myself. And I worked with at least a few other people that commonly had negative attitudes and words.
3. What are the potential damaging consequences of complaining and arguing?
People don’t want to be around us (relationship damage), effect on physical health, lost job or passed on promotion, allowing our complaining to blind us to potential solutions, etc.
It makes us a bad witness. Unbelievers are never attracted to Christ through the negativity of those who follow Christ. The truth is, our negative attitude is one of the major reasons they are disinterested.
4. Is complaining ever acceptable? If so, under what conditions? Give an example.
Not all complaints fall under the category of complaining. A person can share a constructive complaint, being solution-oriented with the intent to initiate positive change. To inform someone of a mistake so that it can be corrected is not complaining (unless the motive is to injure and/or the approach is harsh, sarcastic or condescending). To refrain from complaining doesn’t mean tolerating poor service or inappropriate behavior. There is nothing inappropriate about informing a waitress that your soup is cold and needs to be heated up.
“…so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault
in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the
universe…” Philippians 2:15 (NIV)
5. What reason does this passage give for avoiding a complaining and argumentative temperament? Answer: So that our pleasant and distinctively different disposition will stand out and draw people to Christ as they see Christ in us.
6. Does this passage refer to sinless perfection (that as Christ-followers we are to be absolutely perfect)? Explain.
Leader’s Notes: This passage is not teaching sinless perfection, for there is only one person who was able to accomplish that feat – Jesus Christ. What the apostle Paul is exhorting Christ-followers to do is first, don’t retreat from the world, and second, don’t blend in either. Be positive in a negative world.
As a group, we also talked about how people that seem to be perfect Christians that never mess up, how that perfection – or the illusion of – does not encourage us to open up and share our own struggles.
…A complaining Christian is a bad witness. A positive attitude is a great witness; it has impact. How do you make an impact in the world so that the world takes notice? Check your attitude. Be positive in a negative world.” – Rick Warren
READ: Matthew 12:34-36 (Jesus speaking to the Pharisees – religious leaders)
34 You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. 35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. 36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.
…A negative heart is going to overflow with negative words, which generally lead to negative actions, resulting in a miserable life.” – Paul Westbrook
Jesus’ point was that a person’s character determines what he or she says and does. The mouth usually reveals what is in the heart. The Pharisees’ extreme slander of Jesus revealed their rejection of Him. They needed a change of attitude toward Him, not just a change in their speech about Him.” – Thomas Constable
• UNDERSTAND: Our words reveal the condition of our heart.
Also Numbers 11; Luke 10; John 12
These passages or chapters show us examples of how people gave in to negativity and how others maintained a positive attitude. In Numbers 11, the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness after God brought them out of Egypt. God has provided manna for their daily food, for many years, a wafer-like bread that tastes like honey. They are complaining about it even though God has provided all of their needs. Not unlike many of us do today.
**To monitor and overcome negativity, complaining, etc. – Promise yourself the following:
*PROMISE #1: I will not hang out with negative people. (1Cor. 15:33)
“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” I Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)
Obviously, if you are married to someone with a negative attitude, you have no choice but to ‘hang out’ with them. Just promise yourself to not respond with a like attitude. Offer positive solutions and considerations. Don’t join in.
*PROMISE #2: I will speak words of life. “The tongue has the power of life and death,…” Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) (I have this one posted at my cube at work. Sometimes I need to be reminded when someone from a branch office calls, and their knowledge or attention to detail falls short of my expectations. Not that I would otherwise be nasty. It’s about being positive instead of neutral, and having the right attitude.)
**PROMISE #3: I will be thankful for what I have. “…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
Skipping to 9 – Which one of the above promises to eliminate negativity is most challenging for you? Which is easiest? Explain.
-Promise #1: Okay. I have this covered. All of my friends are Christians who do not have generally negative attitudes. We all have bad days once in awhile, though.
-Promise #2: **I think this is the most challenging one for me. I’m not negative, but I’m not so outwardly positive that I shine, even though I might be feeling joyful at the time. I guess my expressiveness doesn’t spill over unless I’m with friends.
-Promise #3: I will be thankful for what I have. (1 Thess. 5:18) – I’m pretty content, not real materialistic (although I am tired of that old carpet in part of my house), I’m not comparative.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Do everything without complaining or arguing!
MY PERSONAL APPLICATION
_ Memorize Philippians 2:14 (Pair up with a friend to go over the verse and share one specific area where you need to apply it most.)
_ Decide to go one whole day without complaining or arguing. (From the time you get out of bed until the time your head hits the pillow.)
_ If you determine that you are a complainer, do a prayerful assessment and ask yourself, “What’s wrong with my heart?”
_ Consider how your complaining and arguing has affected others. Apologize where necessary.
_ Make the promises addressed in the weekend message.
Readers of my blog: Why not challenge yourself? Try to go one whole day without complaining or arguing. Can you do it? Let me know.