If you have ever lived near an airport, you probably favor a noise abatement program (N.A.P.). If you are concerned about the health and welfare of your children while they are at school or in other public places, you favor an asbestos abatement program (A.A.P.). If you are concerned about your spiritual well-being and that of your loved ones, then may I introduce to you another program - very appropriate for this year when our Diocese celebrates its Golden Jubilee.
The program I have in mind does not require government subsidies. It requires neither an administrative staff nor an office. No website is necessary. In fact, this program operates with no overhead even as it saves time and money - not to mention emotional wear and tear. "What is this marvelous program?" you're asking.
Let's call it G.A.P. Those initials, in my parlance at least, do not stand for a clothing store at the mall. Nor do they pertain to accounting procedures or trade agreements. Instead, the letters G.A.P. stand for "Grumbling Abatement Program." This is a program we should all embrace as One Family of Faith.
Introducing G.A.P. demands that I momentarily grumble about grumbling. My main complaint about grumbling is that there is too much of it. People grumble all the time. The young and the elderly grumble, the rich and the poor grumble, the healthy and the sick grumble. Spouses grumble about (and at) each other. Workers grumble about their bosses and bosses about their workers. We complain about the food we eat, the cars we drive, the computers we use, the churches we attend, the dogs we pet, and our next door neighbors. The list is endless.
Grumbling should be abated because it poisons the atmosphere. You may think that grumbling helps you "let off steam" but, in fact, grumbling makes you feel worse. It's like trying to become happy by frowning - a strategy that clearly doesn't work. Or you may think that grumbling doesn't hurt anyone, that it's just a bit of idle chatter - when in fact it's tearing down the morale of your listener and the reputation of your subject. Or you may think that grumbling, especially when mixed with a bit of sarcasm and a dash of cynicism, makes one charming and witty. It does, but only if you consider a porcupine a good dinner companion!
Trouble is, many grumbles have little regard for the truth. Some complaints have little or no basis in fact. Others are based on exaggerations. Still others mask one's own failures and inadequacies. More than a few grumblers would not dream of bringing their complaint to the person responsible for the alleged outrage; the truth might actually deflate their lofty grumble.
Worst of all, grumblers have an unchristian attitude. After all, a Christian is one who approaches the God of mercy with praise and thanksgiving for His many good gifts.
Thus ends my grumbling about grumbling. Now for my program, the G.A.P.:
- Punctuate your day with thanksgiving. When you get up in the morning, thank the Lord for a new day. Thank Him for your loved ones. Thank Him for your enemies. Thank Him for those whom you will have the opportunity to serve during the course of the day. Thank Him for your talents while humbling acknowledging your shortcomings. Repeat this prayer at noon and at night. Don't forget to thank Him before meals.
- When something goes right, give credit where it belongs - to the Lord. When something goes wrong, ask the Lord for patience and insight so you will be wise enough not to engage in a round of finger pointing. Be honest about your role in debacles big and small.
- When you have a legitimate complaint, think the matter through and pray to the Lord for the grace to deal with it constructively. Make sure that your complaint is more than a mere annoyance and that it passes the truth and fairness test. Present it to the person responsible with charity and diplomacy. The bomb-through-the-transom approach is usually unworkable and always unchristian.
- Install a screen - not on your house but on your heart. With the help of God's grace, screen out the dark thoughts that turn into sins of detraction and calumny. Ask for the grace to screen out lingering anger and grudges, which have such a caustic effect on the soul and perhaps even a bad effect on one's health. Grumbling is often a serious matter.
- Seek God's forgiveness often. Only when we are keenly aware of our own faults and sins can we be more understanding of those around us. The Sacrament of Penance Reconciliation is crucial to the G.A.P.
- Broaden your horizons and interests. Grumbling abounds when there is nothing else to do or talk about. Grumbling flourishes when we are stuck on ourselves. When we visit the sick and needy, teach children about the wonder of God's world, or bring cheer to a grieving person - our grumbles crumble.
Our 50th Jubilee is the perfect time to implement G.A.P. After all, the opposite of a Year of Jubilee is a Year of Grumbling. And who wants one of those?
This column is credited to Fairfield County Catholic monthly magazine.
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