In this year of wild and unpredictable politics, there is something that all of us — Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between — have in common: we all have at least one political thing that we can complain about. It could be health care, immigration, education, taxes, national security, the environment, or another hot-button item. The complaints are different for everyone and reflect our personal opinions and beliefs. Yet, considering how unusual and contentious the political environment has been, there’s likely a topic for each of us that can stir up negative thoughts.
If you’re able to harness those complaints for civil dialogue and/or social action, that’s certainly a great avenue to take. However, many of us often don’t get that far. We complain to ourselves, at the dinner table, or on social media… and that’s it.
The problem is that complaints — both political and otherwise — typically come with negativity. Once we start complaining about something, it can flip a switch of negativity in our minds and hearts. If not controlled, that one negative attitude becomes a cloud of irritation, impatience and pessimism that grows and impacts other areas of our life: work, family, friends, hobbies, and more. One complaints leads to ten more as negativity avalanches into a suffocating frame of mind. In many ways, it’s a form of continuous anger.
Why does this matter? We live in a broken world, so it’s reasonable to become frustrated, right? What’s wrong with venting some angry emotions?
Quite simply, it’s not what God wants for us. James 1:19–20 states,
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Not only will negativity make you feel worse emotionally, it also doesn’t align with the moral behavior God calls us to. When we’re walking through the day with a storm cloud over our heads, we don’t shine with the light of Christ for others to see. Plus, if we slip into a mindset of negativity, we probably won’t see the work God is doing in our lives.
Unfortunately, the answer to avoiding negativity isn’t to simply block out politics. Life will always give us things to complain about. Instead, we can direct that energy elsewhere and turn it into something positive. Here are three ideas:
1. Talk to God
2. Spend time in nature
3. Help others
I learned these solutions from an older woman from my hometown, someone who I deeply respect. She is one of the most positive, Godly women I have ever met. Even those she has experienced intense hardship, it hasn’t caused her to become bitter — in part, because these three solutions are foundational to her life.
When you’re prompted to complain about something — politics, traffic, work, etc. — try these instead. First, talk to God about it. Express your emotions and explain why you feel that way. I’ve found that talking to the creator of the universe quickly reminds me of how small the problem really is, or at least that He is ultimately in control.
Second, get outside. Notice the nature around you. Just hearing birds sing or seeing flowers can lift our eyes to the bigger world that surrounds us. Nature reminds us that God is present and at work in everything — a fact that complaints distract us from.
Finally, rather than complaining, take that energy and help others. Volunteer in your community or do something encouraging for a friend or coworker. Our complaints and problems may seem big to us, but there are many people who are truly struggling at a much deeper level and need help. Just recognizing that puts everything in perspective.
All of this I say from experience. I know how easy it is to slip into a negative frame of mind, and how refreshing it is to be reminded of God’s presence and power. When you feel yourself going down that road as one complaint follows another, talk to God, spend time in nature and help others. God is calling us to rise above negativity and anger, and he will meet us in all three areas.
Authored by NCC Blog Editor Catie Jones | northcentral.org