YES, our schedules are full and people are constantly asking more and more of us. YES, people speak to us in ways that hurt our feelings and ruffle our feathers. YES, our environments are full of stressors. But, how that stress is processed in our own body is a choice we make. For many of us--for me--it is a pattern of choices and a lifetime of learned responses. Some of those responses are healthy, but many are not. The worst response I choose is to whine about the situation.
Whining. Anyone who has spent much time with a small child knows it well. Some of us have raised it to an art form and it seems to resolve around the word "WHY". Boy, do I hate to hear this word--but I sure love to use it sometimes!
Why is this happening?
Why am I here?
Why are they getting away with doing that?
Why did she say that?
Why can't I have a new _______? (car, clothes, house--you fill in the blank)
Why are my children so difficult sometimes?
Why won't she be my friend?
Why doesn't my boss recognize my efforts?
Why. Whine. Maybe it should be spelled "whyne" so that we could more easily recognize what it really is--a constant cry for attention and pity. When others don't, or won't, feel sorry for me, I have a solution. It's called self-pity. It is rooted in prided.
Pride? Really? I mean, how can self-pity have anything to do with pride? Pride is being puffed up about oneself and boasting and bragging. There's no way pride can be the source of self-pity; and yet, it is. Consider this quote from Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles:
Pride is not only giving ourselves too much credit for the good things in our lives, but also giving ourselves a lack of credit for anything. If we see ourselves as superior to others, then we take the focus away from God and put it on us. On the other hand, if we see ourselves as worthless and inferior, then we take the focus away from God and put it on us again.
It seems that pride, like so many things in life, has its healthy purpose and its unhealthy extremes. I can put myself ahead of God by worshiping my success AND by wallowing in my failures. Anything that takes my eyes off of God, and focuses my attention on myself, will end up coming between us in relationship. Too often, as a Christian, I confuse humility with self-loathing or self-pity. Self-loathing manifests itself through persistent whining about my circumstances and a focus on all of my mistakes. Humility is manifested when I acknowledge my sin before God and welcome the redeeming power of His love to enter my soul and wipe away the traces sin left behind.
The difference is the power source. Philippians 4:13 assures us that we "can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us". I John 2:16 warns us that "everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world." What am I plugged in to? Am I focused on the attention of those around me? Do I crave recognition from others like a drug? Am I hoarding responsibilities--never delegating or letting others help me--so that my co-workers or family will recognize how pitiful I am and feel sorry for me? All of these choices represent a power source, but they all lead to overwhelming stress as I try to fuel myself with the recognition of other sinful people. And, in the end, this choice can only lead to a sense of failure and discouragement.
God calls me out of this mindset. He calls me to lay my burdens at His feet. He promises lighter burdens and the possibility of being yoked with Him--that is, working side by side with Him--plugged in to His power. And, God assures me I can do all things through Him and in His strength. This does not mean I can do everything. It means that everything I do in obedience to Him, will be infused with His power.