So here we are in Lent, and for a lot of folks this 40 days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter is an opportunity to take on some kind of personal spiritual discipline. Some of these kinds of options are sort of cliche, like giving up sweets or some other minor treat that brings up pleasure. Others, rather than giving something up, tend to take something on, like meditation or a more intentional prayer life, or study of scripture.
But here’s a discipline that I came across when thinking about what we should talk about in our conversation this week — giving up complaining for Lent. The idea comes from an article posted at the website Patheos. Here the author describes the decision she made a few years ago to give up negativity for Lent:
A few Lents ago, I opted to abstain from something which, at the time, seemed like an easier option: being negative. No complaining, no speaking badly of anyone or anything, no negativity in any form.
I failed on the first day. And the second. And the third. And probably every other day after that. Consciously monitoring and modifying my speech revealed just how engrained negativity was in my thoughts, language and actions. It also exposed the ease with which it often became my default position.
That’s not to say, as the author acknowledges, that there aren’t legitimate things to complain about given the state of the world, the nation, or our personal lives as we enter the second year of living with a pandemic. Let’s be honest, lamentation has a long, proud history in scripture. Where would the psalms be without it. Of course there’s another side to this.
But there are many times, certainly in my life, when I complain unnecessarily and whinge about things in a way that is unhelpful – both to myself and those around me.
As the author elaborates (and you should read the article by clicking here), complaining produces physical effects, altering brain chemistry and heightening stress. A habit of complaining tends to distort our perspective, leading us to see the worst in situations and people. Giving up on negativity forces us to either shut up or to look for the positives around us. Once we adopt the habit of complaining it becomes, like any habit, that much more difficult to snap ourselves out of it. It becomes our default setting, we do it automatically. And finally, our complaining doesn’t just affect us, but it brings down those around us.
For those reasons, and more, the author is taking another shot at giving up negativity for Lent. So here’s our question for discussion. Do you think you could do it? Have you fallen into the habit of negativity, and if so, why do you think that is so? Do you think there’d be any benefit to giving up negativity? And more importantly, would you be willing to give it a try?
We’ll talk about all these things and probably more in our virtual conversation tomorrow evening beginning at 7 pm. Click on the link below to join in on the discussion.