A report on a difficult commute into work can become a volley of complaints. We might think that we're just venting, but we walk away feeling worse than we did when we entered the conversation. If that's the case, it's likely that the other person was taken down a couple notches on the contentment-o-meter, too. This is certainly not what Paul was talking about when he admonished us to build others up!
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Many of us will be careful to not gossip, but we're less guarded about sharing what we like and dislike, what annoys us, or how we have been mistreated or wronged. Most of us fall into this trap. It's a slippery slope.
Two people engaged in this negativity can start an epidemic within a department at work or in line at the store. The amazing thing is that we have the same power to pull those around us up and out of the muck and mire. We just need to heed that check in our spirit when we realize that we have to choose which direction our words are headed.
Have you ever made hand-dipped candles? You begin with a thick wick, about a foot long, folded in half and held in the middle. Both ends are lowered and dunked into wax. The thin layer of wax instantly dries as the wicks are lifted. Then the process is repeated.
Each dunk thickens the wax until each end of the wick builds up until it is a heavy, substantial candle. This is what happens each time our exchanged words are “dunked” in negativity. Eventually we have created something. We can't see the negativity, but it's there and influences the rest of our day and the days of those around us. The environment becomes heavy with discouragement, discontentment, and even drudgery. The joy of the Lord has no place.
The good news is that the opposite happens, too. It may be difficult to change the direction of the flow of conversation, but with a little effort, a reminder that God is in control and has it covered can stop negativity in its tracks.
Reminders of His faithfulness and even a sense of humor about the obstacles in modern life can lighten a burden that has become authentically heavy. The important thing is to choose which direction you would like to help steer the conversation. Positiveness sometimes must be deliberate.
The goal is not to become Susie Sunshine to everyone around you. The goal is to not push down someone who is already treading water. In the end, if you heap complaints onto their struggling moral, you are also brought down. No one wins.
With intentionality, and refusal to join the negativity trend, everyone in the room wins. Over time, people will seek out your positive spin on things. On some days they may need your kindness and a reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness desperately. What an honor to be used by God in such a way.