"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weeks 24 & 25 (Part 2): Don't Complain; Give Thanks

"Do everything without complaining or arguing." ~ Phil. 2:14

"Always [give] thanks to God for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." ~ Eph. 5:20

Our daughter, Josie Leigh, was born Friday, July 23, 2010 at 10:13 p.m. She weighed eight pounds and thirteen ounces. As you can see, she has a head full of dark hair and is very beautiful.

For the last two weeks, The James 1:22 Project has been about replacing complaining speech with thankful speech. The idea is that thankfulness and complaining are incompatible, so I was trying to replace complaining with thanksgiving. You might look at that little darling in the photograph above and think that it would be very easy for me to be thankful right now. And, you would be right. I have plenty to be thankful for. But, as all of you parents know, the blessing of a new baby also comes with stress, fatigue, dirty diapers, and spit-up. Over the last two weeks, in my effort to give thanks and not complain, I've had a mix of success and failure.

One thing I saw over the last two weeks is that my speech directs my mind and heart just as much as my mind and heart direct my speech. The more I gave thanks during the last couple weeks, the more I felt thankful and blessed. Popular psychology would attribute this experience to something called "cognitive dissonance." Basically, the theory of cognitive dissonance is that the mind cannot continue to hold two opposing ideas. So, if you say that you are thankful when you do not feel thankful, then eventually your mind will resolve the conflict by convincing itself that you are, in fact, thankful. Cognitive dissonance theory was developed in the 1950s. The Book of James was written about nineteen hundred years earlier, and, I think provides a much more elegant description of the relationship between our tongues and the rest of us. According to James, your speech is like a bit in your mouth that determines your direction. Using another metaphor, James says that what you say is the rudder that sets the course for your ship. Thus, if we can control our speech, then we will gain control over our minds and bodies as well. James 3:2-6.

Another thing that I noticed over the last two weeks is that thankfulness and complaining are both highly contagious. Almost invariably, if I started giving thanks for things, then I would notice people around me also saying that they were thankful for something. Complaining works the same way, only more so. If thankfulness is as contagious as the flu, then complaining is like ebola or the bubonic plague. This effect is multiplied with kids. I spent a lot of time with my two boys last week, and I used them as guinea pigs. If I mentioned in their presence two or three things that I was thankful for, then without any other prompting from me the boys would start talking about what they were thankful for. On the other hand, if I complained about even one thing, then they would also immediately start complaining.

This week (week 26), I'm done with baby leave and am back to work. For The James 1:22 Project, I'll be concentrating on another speech related command.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. . . . But among you there must not be . . . obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

Eph. 4:29, 5:3-4.

More on that in about one week. Until then, grace and peace to you.

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