Thinking Right About People

(image from Tiffany Kirchner Dixon's blog)

I really, really want to enjoy the journey of life. For the love of chocolate and red wine, I just want to take joy.

I have a low tolerance for negativity. I have an even lower tolerance for negative talk about people. Ask my family. We aren't perfect, but on the average day, we just don't do it. We don't speak negatively of others. Once in awhile, this is because I can't take it, and after about two minutes of it I have to change the subject or interject something positive and redeeming. And I mean it. Let's not even think about picking up where we left off, and go back to criticizing. I'll get mad.

That. ain't. pretty.

This isn't because I am virtuous. I tend to push the limits of virtue in some areas of my life. I hate gossip simply because I have had a belly-full-enough of negative yah-yah to last a lifetime, and I am totally sick of it, I do not care how true it is, or how important it is that I should know this or that about so-and-so.

This might not be a virtue at all. This might be a survival mechanism I have developed. But for pity's sake, why say something bad about someone else?

Think about it. Ask yourself the same question I ask myself: What good can this possibly do? Truly. What good at all does it do to mentally or verbally criticize? Of what redeeming value is gossip?

That's all gossip is...a negative little chat about something or someone's shortcomings. Sometimes the chat takes place between your ears, between you, yourself, and you. Or it might take place between you and another person. In person or in writing. (We forget that a private Facebook message is still gossip, even though we didn't SAY it!) It might be veiled, it might be blatant, but the intention is always the same: to point out a perceived fault. Or a church's perceived faults. Or the short comings of the Adult Sunday School program, which always by implication leads to someONE'S failures, as you see it.

And sometimes you are exactly right.

Oh, yes, you might be right about precisely where the falling short line lies...and you do us all a smelly pile of good by talking about it. You rocket scientist, you! It takes a keen mind to decipher what is wrong with this world, doesn't it? You better not die, because we need you around forever and ever, amen, because all us mortals? Why, we'd never know there was a problem without your astute observations. At the very least, we'd miss out on all the petty fun of listening to you talk.

There. Now that you understand where I am coming from...


Seriously. How do we shift from negative yah-yah, to positive speech, seasoned with salt? By thinking right thoughts about others.

Because pointing out all the dings and scratches in your neighbor's car does not improve the innate quality of your car.

His car? Your car?

It is what it is, friend. Put your mind on higher things, why don't you? All this car-speak is metaphor, of course.

Do not let your mind dwell on such trivial matters as the shortcomings of others. The plans and purposes of God for your life transcend such things. Grasp this!

When you think negatively about someone, you end up speaking negatively about them. When you speak negatively about them, you diminish yourself and them. But when you speak only what is good for the use of building others up, you and they are increased.

Their faults? Your faults?

They are what they are. The real question is how much do you value relationships?

Your brain is a filing cabinet. You can't help but notice things you don't like, and you can't help but file that away.

But you don't have to pull it back out and refer to it constantly. You really can let the negative files gather dust, and choose to pull out what is good, and refer only to that.

You can, you can! Yes, you can!

And when others pull out their negative files on someone else, and hand them to you...you can do what I typically do...toss it in the circular file labeled T-R-A-S-H/C-A-N, and treat it accordingly. Mark the person who tends to pull only the negative files, and politely refuse the next one.

I understand there are instances where none of this applies. Sometimes we do have the unpleasant task of bringing to someone's attention something that is significant and of negative implication. But only...only...when this is for the greater good. The far. far. far. greater good.

And I understand that the actions of others can create a teachable moment...brief objective and private discussion is necessary, and so you try to keep it as redeeming as possible. I get that.

I understand that ideas must be examined and critiqued.

But people? Co-workers? Fellow church members? Someone you call "friend" to their face?

Come on. We are all smarter than that.

Cut the negativity. It does no good. It adds no joy to the journey.
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