A few days ago, I read a blog post that contained a few sentences that really made me stop and think:
When someone is complaining, refuse to agree with them no matter how hard they try. Ignore everything they say until something positive emerges. Only comment on the positive statement. You will be encouraging more of the same.
I thought that this could be a very powerful technique. Often, when I am listening to someone who is being very negative, I get carried away by the negativity and join in by adding my complaints. Instead of bringing peace to a conversation, I end up making both of us more negative. I have been vaguely aware of this lately, feeling a quiet discomfort after each session of mutual complaining. When I read the sentences, above, I knew that I wanted to try not responding to the next complaints I heard. I resolved myself to listen for something positive among the complaints and then respond only to the positive.
I could not do it. The first time, I did not even think of the technique until after my friend walked away at the end of a mutual gripe session. I recommitted myself to doing better the next time. Time after time I found myself failing. I just get swept away every time, carried along on a wave of complaining. By doing this, I am increasing the negativity in the world, which is the opposite of what I want to do. I tell myself that, at least, I am trying. Going along with negativity and complaining must be a very deep-seated habit in me.
Realizing how hard this habit is for me to break makes me want to try even harder to use the technique. I am stubbornly re-confirming my desire to succeed with it. I am going to try to be aware of negativity in a conversation when it first begins. I don’t want to get to the end of a conversation and then realize that I have fallen into the trap again. I am stronger than that.
I found a verse of Scripture that can help me:
Nothing foul should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
If I stop the negativity and complaining coming out of my mouth, and switch to only speaking positive words, those words can be a source of grace. That is what I am hoping for, that I can help build up the people around me, instead of dragging them down further into negativity. Now, I will pray this verse and let it become part of me. I believe doing this will give me strength to help me to take the action above, to refuse to join in with negativity and, instead, build up any positive comments by affirming them. If I am able to stay focused on this, I can be an agent of grace in the world.