Since I first read this quote I’ve been paying more attention to what we talk about. I listen to my own conversations, my own words, and I listen to the people around me. We have a problem! There is a difference between being modest (“free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions”) and complaining (“to express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief”). Obviously. But at some point we as a society either decided 1) it is unacceptable to make small talk of the things in life that make us happy, proud, or joyful, or 2) it is more acceptable to make casual conversation of our woes, our challenges, and annoyances.
If upon bumping in to an acquaintance at the grocery store she tells you of landing a new account, buying a new boat, and a enjoying a flourishing rose garden, does this make you resent her? Does it make her appear as a braggart? Does it seem in poor taste? If so, WHY? Would you think more highly of her as a person if she told you of the broken water main they just had to replace and her brother that was just diagnosed with cancer?
Maybe we feel as though we can relate to other people who have problems because we have problems too. Maybe just knowing someone else is dealing with something tough puts our own challenges in to perspective. But you know what? Yes, we all have problems…but we all have joys! Let’s relate to THAT in one another! Your neighbor’s heartache doesn’t take away from your heartache…but if the bad news is the first thing we share, what are we putting out in to the world?
Some people share the less than pleasurable parts of their lives so freely because they’re looking for support. Or maybe they’re looking for the person who has a problem they feel is bigger than theirs and that brings them some peace.
What if we don’t feed that desire anymore. We all know those people who you try not to make eye contact with at the bank because you know you’re going to get an earful of disasters. What if, in an effort to not minimize her troubles for her benefit,what if instead of saying “ya, don’t feel so bad…my cat has a really bad case of fleas,” you said:
Wow. That must be tough. What can I do to help you?
I bet 9 times out of 10 that person would stop in her tracks. Either she never hears that offering of generosity (probably because people see her coming and run the other way all the time), or she catches herself and reassures you that things are not that bad, but thanks anyway.
What if we realized that everyone has their woes AND everyone has their joys. If your neighbor is sharing good news, celebrate with them! If they’re sharing their misery, don’t try to top them. It won’t lesson anything but your personal energy. Comfort them, love them, and maybe share a story about a baby or a puppy in your life. Babies and puppies…they cheer everyone up.
There is going to be a day when you don’t feel like you have anything positive to share. What do you want to hear about after you indulge in some much needed venting? Consider that. I guess I don’t believe that misery truly loves company. If we chose to look for the positive and surround ourselves with people who operate from a place of love, it just makes the inevitable miserable times that much more hopeful.
Allow. Don’t expect. Find gratitude. Love.