Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Complaining Hurts?

Habitual Complaining
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

If I wake up with a back ache, obviously I get to "complain" to my doctor that I don't feel well so she can know how to treat me so I will feel better. If someone rear-ends me in traffic, I may not immediately listen to the better angels of my nature, but instead, I might get a little cranky for a minute or two. And if someone hurts my feelings, don't I get to tell them so (they may not have realized)? Isn't that just honest communication?
           Occasional observations or even periodic lapses into ego-centric self-pity are not life patterns. But constant complaining is a habit, and like most "bad" habits, gets in the way of successful outcomes.
            Those who always have something to complain about are never enjoyable to be around. We avoid them, or we automatically dismiss their complaints. Complaining is their modus operandi, so we tune them out. Then, when they really do need help or a listening ear, we don't notice that "this time," they aren't just performing their usual shtick.
           According to "A Complaint Free World" there are some real costs to constant complaining (focusing on the negative):
1. Complaining hurts relationships

2. Complaining hurts careers
3. Complaining damages physical health
4. Complaining damages emotional and mental health

The Apostle Paul wrote, "whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
           Let's focus more on the good than on the negative, because we know that where attention goes, energy flows; what we think about habitually we manifest eventually.
           I mentioned in last week’s sermon that we can't be anxious, irritated, or miserable AND grateful at the same time. Someone gave me a rhyme after service to condense that sentiment. He said, "We can't be hateful and grateful at the same time."
           So, what are you grateful for today? For the good we've known, the good we expect, and even the good we just currently imagine might be possible...let's name it and be grateful for it. We can't be "grateful and hateful" at the same time. Let's, at least today, choose an attitude of gratitude.
           There are challenges we'll have to deal with along the way, but when we have hope, peace, and joy, then we can handle those challenges much more easily and much more effectively. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Response to the Zimmerman Verdict

My dear friends,
By now we all know of the Zimmerman verdict. He was cleared of all charges regarding the killing of Trayvon Martin and  feelings are thick in the air like humidity. There is no statement that will appease everyone, and yet, the situation is too heavy to not offer something, if only an acknowledgment that this is a painful, confusing, and utterly unsatisfying moment in history.

Some will say that our emotions are running too high, that legally. reasonable doubt trumps our emotions and perceptions, that none of us were on the jury or, for that matter, at the scene of the incident where a young man had his life taken away. The unknowns, they will say, should keep us from forming opinions or experiencing pain. I, however, strongly disagree with them.

I am not an attorney or a journalist or a sociologist, so I wouldn’t dare enter into the technicalities of the case. But we aren’t outraged or devastated or confused because of technicalities. We are broken-hearted because a young man died, many of us are in no way convinced it was unavoidable, and a grieving family has lost a child and must feel as if they have been denied justice. In our humanity, how could we not ache for the family, for the life that will never get a chance to mature, for the pathology of racism that still infects our society? Our pain isn’t about legal loopholes; our pain is about human life being wasted.

I just keep thinking of the biblical myth of Cain and Abel. Cain slays his brother (feeling justified in doing so), and infinite Love groans in agony as a response. The divine Voice says to Cain, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!”

That’s why we are so upset. Not because of disagreements about juris prudence; but because our young brother’s spilt blood cries out to us. And in response, we cry also.

Is this all complicated by Zimmerman’s racist history. Of course.
Is it complicated by what many feel are draconian gun laws? Probably.
Is it complicated by the notion that Zimmerman never needed to confront the young man face to face?
Is it complicated by the almost certain reality that this is one death that did not need to occur?

For many reasons, our feelings are complex, and they are real, and they cannot be easily dismissed by insensitive comments or myopic suppositions.

So, while I have no answer to what is in so many ways a tragedy, I felt that the issue merited an acknowledgement of its gravity. I felt that our collective pain and sorrow deserved some validation. And I felt it absolutely necessary to affirm a deep sense of regret that a family has lost a loved one, has been denied closure, and has had their pain and disappointment so publicly aired.

To Trayvon Martin’s family, I send, as so many of us do, heart-felt regret and deep sympathy as they face the continuation of their nightmare.

We long with the prophet Micah for the day when swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. But until that day, we continue to work, and wait, and pray. And on this day, we bless Trayvon’s memory and we hold his family in our hearts.
Spirit of hope and healing, wipe our tears , renew our faith in goodness, and comfort those who mourn. Amen.