The E.P.A. sets high standards for air quality to protect us from breathing toxic chemicals in the environment. There is another form of air pollution that, while still legal by government standards, is just as toxic to our health and to the health of those around us. It’s called complaining. Opportunities to complain are everywhere, inspired by annoying neighbors, heavy traffic, careless drivers, illnesses, politics, the news, a harsh boss, the weather, our kids, our spouses, and so on.
And yet in Philippians 2:14, the Bible commands us to do everything without complaining or arguing. Everything! James 3:10 goes further to say that blessing and cursing should not come out of the same mouth. So why do we invest so much time and effort into speaking negatively about those things that rub us the wrong way?
Our culture tells us that it’s all about me, and when me is negatively impacted by the surrounding world, something must be wrong. While an individual’s rights are certainly important, God, not self, has and always will be the center of the universe. What if we began to see the inconveniences of life as divine “set-ups” through which God will develop our character, perseverance, and trust in Him? Are we willing to make the effort to bless that person that drives us crazy or do we stay stuck in how we are personally, negatively impacted? How do we effectively learn to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds (James 1:2)?
The antidote for toxic complaining is to intentionally develop a thankful heart.
Consider the story about a young boy adopted from an island in the Philippines where hot water is not available. The adoptive father taught his son about hot running water by holding his hand under the faucet and gradually increasing the water temperature. Now part of his new family in the U.S,. the young son comes downstairs from his morning shower expressing thanks and delight over the availability of hot water! What a rich example of appreciation for what appears to us to be such a simple, staple of life!
Humans have approximately 30,000 thoughts per day. Every thought releases a neuro-chemical response into our bodies. Knowing that 75-95% of all illness finds its roots in toxic thoughts should compel us to cultivate joy in ourselves and others by starting with the foundational premise of thankfulness for every blessing as well as genuine appreciation for the uphill challenges that can serve to make us stronger.
An attitude of thanksgiving should be our default disposition, regardless of the swirl around us, as our declaration to the watching world that every good and perfect thing comes from God (James 1:17). We must talk to God about those things that threaten to wear us down (Philippians 4:6) while maintaining a genuinely thankful heart because we have been blessed with so much!
If you woke up tomorrow with everything and everyone you thanked God for today, what would you have?