The other night we had the blessing of going to our daughter’s Christmas Concert at school. She was only in two numbers during the whole two hours, so we had kind of psyched ourselves up to get through the evening. When we arrived, we found some good friends to sit by and proceeded to move to our chairs. Except when we went to sit down, we found ourselves bumping elbows and hips. The seats were so closely put together that it was almost impossible to sit comfortably.
I started to complain almost immediately. “Who set up these chairs? What were they thinking?” I tried in vain to wiggle my chair to the left and then to the right. It was so uncomfortable. I turned my head to the end of the row. Could we possibly inch the chairs to the left or right? Nope. No chance. They would obviously be out of line with the rest of the rows and there was not an inch of space between any of them. I sat back and resigned myself to sitting diagonally on my seat to get through what was going to be a very long evening. My husband (whom I nicknamed “MacGyver” a long time ago) came up with a great solution. We folded up an unused chair. Aahhh. Space to sit comfortably. We adjusted our chairs and actually enjoyed the rest of the evening, which was filled with the songs of Christmas.
But as I pondered on my reaction, I realized something. I complained when the chairs weren’t set up correctly, but I wouldn’t have even thought about the chairs if they would have been set up in a comfortable way. I would never have entered the row and exclaimed how lovely it was that the chairs were positioned so comfortably. We could just have easily solved that problem (i.e. fold up an extra chair) without my unnecessary complaining. Are complaining and negative words necessary for solving an uncomfortable or difficult dilemma?
So why this human tendency to focus on imperfection? Why do we so often notice the bad stuff but tend to ignore the good stuff? Why do we feel the need to complain and criticize when something doesn’t suit us? Why don’t we notice how wonderful something is? Why don’t we appreciate when something goes as planned?
We find this law at play in our company. We have several hundred customers we service regularly. I bet you can guess who we hear from most often. Yep- you guessed it! The ones who are dissatisfied. We are always so very thankful for those customers who take the time to write a note thanking us or to pick up the phone and call just to tell us how pleased they are with the work we did for them. What a blessing to us and to the employees who did the work.
Let’s take this thought and apply it to our homes, shall we? When was the last time we thanked our husband or wife for doing something good- or even something very routine- that we expected them to do? On the other hand, when is the last time we scolded, criticized, or even yelled at that same person for doing something we didn’t like? Play the same scenario out in your head with your children, your friends, your parents, your pastor, and your co-workers. You see, it is applicable in almost every area we find ourselves in.
Sure, sometimes the negative has to be addressed. I am not talking about the unhealthy choice of ignoring serious problems. What I am referring to are the things we say that just do not need to be said. It’s the unnecessary comment I made about the chairs. It’s the negative comments we make about our favorite sports team, our children’s schools, the restaurant, or the store where we shop. It includes the unkind comments we make to our close friend about someone’s hair…or clothes…or choice of dog…or how they use their money. Unless it is a biblical issue and against a commandment we find there, does it really matter?
The Christmas season is upon us. What a great time to encourage others and set a good example with our language. Let’s edify one another with our words and comments as we gather together for Christmas celebrations.
Proverbs 10: 19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.