When did conversations change? When did we all start communicating in the negative case? All this week, when in conversation with others, I listened to complaint after complaint. One person complained about the burning of the Qu’ran in South Florida, while another complained that people were upset at the book-burning. I listened to a couple of football fans complain about the team, the referees, and the prices at the concession stand. I was part of a conversation that focused on all the negative aspects of our local Walmart’s recent floor-plan reorganization. I listened and held my tongue as someone complained about schools. I talked with someone who is looking for a new place to worship and I tried to redirect their negative thoughts about the place they currently attend. I know people who seem to look for something to pick apart, whether it is the clothes someone wears, the place where someone lives, how others decorate their house, what music they listen too, and on and on and on.
I know I am complaining about complaining. Negative communication is addictive. But whatever happened to, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?” Did we forget this sage advice of our mothers or the recommendations of the apostle Paul, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. . . . Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Eph 4:29, 32 NLT).
I am giving myself a challenge, and you too: “From this day forward, I will speak positive things. I will use my words to build people up. I will avoid criticism. When I see something that I think needs correcting, I will first evaluate the importance of that correction. Will someone receive injury if no correction occurs? Will someone place their soul in danger if not corrected? If I answer no to those questions, I will keep quiet. If however I answer yes to either of those questions, I will offer the correction in loving humility, knowing that I may be wrong myself.”