Challenges seem to be a trend in our culture. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of #drop_your_(car,truck, significant other, age)_challenge. Those pictures have been flooding social media! Hallie several years ago told me that she was out to conquer the 3 AM challenge, which, as you might guess, involves staying up until 3 AM. She was pretty confident she could do it, but had to settle for the 11:30 PM challenge.
I recently was reading where author and speaker Shannon Popkin once challenged a group to the Five C’s Challenge*. In an effort to embody the fruits of the Holy Spirit, she encouraged everyone to abstain from five ‘C’ activities: complaining, correcting, criticizing, comparing, and condemning. At first, she challenged the group to 21 days, which just made me chuckle. There was no way. But she later challenged lowered it to just five days. If I couldn’t be that nice to people for five days, then I had some serious issues.
So I wrote down the items on an index card and set off to give it a try. I thought I’d share a few wins and ‘next times’ with you guys. If you read my article on daily inventory, you’ll understand why I’ve given an even number of both!
So as you read, see the bigness of God and the change He can inspire, not the faults and mistakes we make. It’s ultimately all about Him!
Hallie got water all over the bathroom floor while taking a shower….again. She takes the shower head down and sprays things with it all the time, then tells me she has no idea how the water gets on the floor. I started to march up the stairs and harshly correct, lay down the law. Instead I paused and decided to address issue more gently. I mentioned that there was water all over the floor, and that it seemed to be a frequent occurrence. “Yeah, it’s crazy, I have no idea how this keeps happening.” Because I had chosen gentleness, I was able to internally chuckle. “How about we leave the shower head attached next time and see if that helps?” Her response was one I never would have gotten if I’d gone up there demanding my way. “That makes sense, probably a good idea.”
Next Time #1
It was so easy to join in a conversation at work about a co-worker who seemed to get away with anything. We all wonder how she still has a job! All the facts that were true, but the nature of the conversation was very critical. It was not filled with the love of Jesus. My conscience was pricked in the moment, but I still jumped in the slanderous conversation instead of yielding to the Holy Spirit.
Brandon called me from the store, explaining that he’d gone over the grocery budget. We are really working on sticking to a budget, and it was a big deal to him to have missed the mark so much. He was being overly critical of himself, taking all the blame. Apparently Hallie suggested he just not tell me about…
I was able to sense the self-criticism and assure him that he wasn’t a total money failure. We are in learning mode, and we’re going to mess it up a few times. It’s just part of the journey. Instead of immediately criticizing him for messing it up, I felt sorry for him, that he felt so badly about it, that all I wanted to do was encourage him. That’s all the work of Jesus right there, you guys!
Next Time #2
Brandon said something that hurt my feelings, and I knew he said it jokingly, not realizing I wouldn’t laugh. So I went to him and calmly explained that it hurt my feelings and why- a process I’m still super awkward at, but working on it!
He immediately apologized, saying he really didn’t think it through all the way. He was genuinely sorry.
And that should have been it. Instead, I took the moment to reiterate why it was hurtful, and point out where he screwed up. I told him proudly that I keep an tight reign on my mouth to keep those kind of comments at bay. I didn’t say it that bluntly….I’m a woman and can hid that bluntness well! But my heart was saying it that bluntly.
My pre-teen was getting ready for church. If you’re a parent of a pre-teen girl, then you know this can be an angsty process sometimes. She came to the bathroom door telling me how all the outfits she’d planned on were missing. She’d left a bag of stuff at her mom’s house, and some clothes she took off just last night had just disappeared.
Since we’ve given her the freedom to take clothes back and forth between mom’s and dad’s house, my gut reaction was to point out how she was old enough to keep track of her clothes and that’s why she really should pay more attention to where she puts things. I also would typically point out that all the laundry was clean, so if something was missing, it wasn’t my fault.
But this whole challenge made me stop the critical thought pattern and instead show a little grace. I told her I was sorry she was having difficulty, offered her my jean jacket, and stopped to go help her search for the missing item of clothing. In the end, she came downstairs looking super cute and a lot less stressed out.
Next Time #3
Policies and procedures can change frequently at my job. Especially in this pandemic! I found it really easy to complain about the quick changes and lack of communication. Especially in a group where we all thought the same thing. Instead of looking at how we can best pull together and find the most efficient way to get the job done, it was just easier to jump in and agree with everyone about the decision makers must be complete idiots.
What I Learned
Through this short challenge, I learned that I struggle more with internal criticism than anything. I don’t necessarily speak it, but I harbor it in my heart. I was unaware of how quickly critical thoughts ran across my brain, until I was being careful to avoid these five pitfalls.
And I’m learning that it’s not necessarily virtuous to make sure that critical speech doesn’t leave my mouth only, and ignore my heart. Luke says that “The good person, out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person, out of evil treasure produces evil. For it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” If I store up enough criticism in my heart, it will come out.
I was also reminded of another very practical truth in Scripture. I can’t just can’t ‘take off’ one habit or attitude without replacing it with another. As I was catching myself slipping into one of these bad thoughts, I literally found myself thinking “But how should I react instead?”. I had to go back to a few scriptures to find out how it is that Jesus would have handled it. Colossians 3 is a great place to start, if you’re curious.
So now I challenge you. #5Days5Cs. For five days, do your best to abstain from complaining, correcting, criticizing, comparing, and condemning. Which one do you think you’ll struggle with the most? What areas or people in your life will you need to ‘suite up’ a little stronger for?
Tell me about it in the comments….let me know how it goes, and what the Lord teaches you!
*Control Girl, by Shannon Popkin