I was recently the topic of some yucky gossip. While I don’t think full-on malicious intent was behind it, it felt crummy to hear nonetheless. It didn’t even make me angry, it just left me kind of puzzled. I kept thinking, “Don’t they have something better and more true to talk about?” It didn’t take the Holy Spirit long to point that question inward toward my heart. He quietly whispered, “Meredith, what about your words? What are you talking about?”
Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about the words coming out of my mouth. My words _______. What fills the blank? Do they lift up or tear down? Do they point toward truth or foster negativity? Are they words of life or death? Do they leave people encouraged or frustrated? Do they make people feel included or alienated? Are they true, lovely, and worth repeating?
Sometime ago I read a disturbing article exposing a harsh reality: 30-40% of our conversations are some version of complaining. That's almost half!
All sorts of defensiveness rose up in me, until I gave it a second thought and realized the research is correct (surprise, surprise). Think about it. How many conversations do we hear or participate in that include some sort of venting or dissatisfaction? Maybe we wish something else had happened, or maybe we hoped for a different outcome. Maybe we disapproved of someone’s attitude or decision. We express frustration about slow drivers, slow internet, and slow customer service. We grumble and sigh about our workloads and stress levels when we get home, and we voice plenty of offense when others don’t treat us the way we feel they should. We voice our annoyances over coffee dates, texts, or dinners with friends. It comes up at work and in our leisure time, in emails and in real conversations.
Something rises up inside in defense: “Well…I was annoyed/offended/disappointed! I’m allowed to voice my opinion, aren’t I?” Yes. We are allowed, and the majority of us fully utilize that freedom, and when we do, we fit right in. But that’s the whole point - we aren’t supposed to fit in. Not in that way.
When God reaches down and saves us, He sets us apart, puts His light in us, and positions us to shine in our world, a world full of darkness, brokenness, and sin. Jesus charges us to take that light and shine it brightly - to become bold beacons of light pointing people to Christ, the one true source of life and light. To that, we say a passionate,“YES!” We want our lives to shine brightly; we want to be different; we want to point people to Jesus. You want those things, and so do I. It’s the how that gets me.
Paul lays it right out there so clearly in Philippians 2:
Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.
Want to know how to make our lives shine brightly? Do everything without complaining or arguing. Why? Because the direct opposite is the norm. It almost seems anticlimactic or just plain too simple. Honestly, I think it would almost be easier if bold deeds of service or sacrifice were the secret to shining brightly. But its our words.
Our words in unscripted moments tell the true story of our hearts.
What if we redirect that 30-40%?
Friends, shine on!