I stopped at the local Waffle House this morning for a quick breakfast and as usual the same four old men who are there every weekday morning were sitting at the counter griping about everything from the weather to politics to "young people" to their physical bodies. Every time I have stopped there over the years, this crew is there giving commentary on all that is wrong in the world.
What strikes me as significant is that these old men have absolutely nothing better to do with their lives then to sit around for hours complaining. That is all they ever do. They never offer any solutions to any of the things they gripe about. They simply spend their time telling each other what they already knew; that the weather is too hot or cold or wet or dry, that so and so of the opposite political party is a low down good for nothing liar, that those *&%$ kids need to be locked up in a jail and the key thrown away and their doctor is a quack since they still have all their same old problems as before they saw him.
Anyone can sit around bellyaching about how bad things are. Anyone can sit in the comfort of fellow "negative nelson's" and gripe about every little thing they think someone they don't like is doing. Anyone can wake up on a given day and look out the window and immediately complain about the weather for they wanted the opposite. Anyone can rattle off every ache and pain and bodily function not working correctly if so desired. Anyone can complain, but it takes a big person to be solution minded.
I abhor the time from now until the election because of the ever increasing negativity of campaign ads. I heard a commercial on the radio this morning where one candidate accused the other of things even a First Grader would know could not be possible. If the ads are that negative now, I shudder to think of what is coming in a few weeks. Negative campaigning is a vicious cycle that once it starts, there is nothing to slow it down or stop it.
We live in a negative world currently dealing with many negative situations all at once. There is a temptation to look at what is going on in the world and immediately become as the old men at the counter. It is easy to fall into the rut of complaining. It is very hard to get out of that rut once in it. There is also a temptation to allow the negativity of another person to make you negative.
My mom was the most negative, complaining glass is half empty person I ever met. During the times I had to spend 18 hours of a day in close proximity to her, my battle was to not become as she was, for there was no way to change how she was. I can vividly recall successfully withstanding the urge to become negative. I also remember many times I succumbed to the temptation of fighting fire with fire. Those were the times I would rather forget because of how they turned out.
It seems that the older we get, the more things we find to complain about. It seems that with each passing month we live, our bodies find something new to complain about. It seems that as we age, we gravitate toward everything wrong and forget all that remains right. It seems that, looking back, everything was just peachy keen when we were younger, for we have conveniently forgotten all that was not good and right.
In dealing with our elders (and for some of us OURSELVES), we must always keep in mind that once the physical body starts going downhill, it usually drags the mind and emotions down with it. As aches and pains grow worse so does one's outlook on life. As organs start failing, knees and hips quit working and more and more time is spent sitting in a chair instead of driving and walking around; depression starts setting in. This is why successful nursing homes keep the people active and doing things-so they don't have time to sit around and think about how bad they feel.
I spent my time in the "positive thinking" prison and will never go back. The purpose of this post was not to advocate "positive thinking" for I believe in calling something what it is and not what we want it to be. But, research has definitely proven that if a person sits around complaining all day about how badly they feel, they will feel worse than someone who doesn't confess it all day.
Whether dealing with ourselves or elderly parents or folks in the world, try and refrain from joining them in the dark basement of negativity. If possible, think of the glass as being half full and sky as partly sunny. These simple things help us to not fall into the "old men at the counter, negative politician" rut. Perhaps we need to round up all the negative politicians and make them sit daily with the old men at the counter. I bet they would quit being so negative overnight.
While there is such a thing as clinical depression (and I don't want to belittle that horrible disease in any way), I daresay that many times we have often fallen into a pit which we have dug ourselves. We need to stop doing that! There are enough very real pits out there without us digging a few ourselves.
The Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). The Bible tells us that God turns our darkness into light (Psalm 18:28). The Bible tells us that God is the God of hope (Romans 15:13). As Christians we need to clench these words tightly in our fist and not let go of them...no matter what what we feel like.
As someone who has suffered from clinical depression and been through a course of meds for it, I can tell you there is a whole lot more involved than just sitting around being negative all day or wallowing in self-pity.
I actually almost laughed when I first read this blog because I can see and hear those men. I live in a town with a couple of small diners and those men are at those places too. And, Blessings, my mom not only sees the glass as half empty but dumped out and broken, so I hear you.
Wallowing in the negative is not good. It leads to nothing but more negativity and the world doesn't need that and as Christians we can't ... we shouldn't be that way ... we should be able to find the good and look for ways to make life better. We should always look to Christ.
But what happens in someone who is clinically depressed is they feel like they are being swallowed and they don't want to be. They surround themselves with things to do. They pile on more and more so they don't have time to stop and think about anything or even deal with things they should deal with and eventually it becomes too much and they crash under the weight of it all. At first they are able to pull themselves out and find something else to occupy their time again, to keep themselves busy and it works for a time ... until it all crashes around them again ... and the cycle repeats until the time between crashes is so close they can't get up. I've walked this road.
I'd like to say it helps to have another Christian come in and give you spiritual advice and point you to God and give you scriptures to lift your eyes but in some ways it actually makes it worse. It did for me because then I felt guilty that I couldn't maintain the joy I was supposed to have and supposed to know. My husbands unconditional love didn't help. Supportive friends and family didn't touch it. A trusted counselor and pastor whom I dearly loved wasn't able to point me where he always had before. That's when I got medication. When nothing made it better, when I couldn't maintain for a day, meds actually worked and six months later I was off them again.
That was four years ago now.
Are old men at the counter who gripe and complain depressed or do they just not see the world the same as me? Are they hurting me by doing it? Maybe if I let them lure me in to the complain department along with them. Are they hurting themselves by doing it? Maybe if they never do anything else. But I've seen these men at the counter, I've heard their whines and complaints and threats and then I've seen them pay for their coffee and go home and come to church the next day and I've been moved to tears by the sincerity and beautiful words of their prayers for others.