Thursday, February 18, 2010


After way too much build-up, I'll let you in on my little scheme. I'm observing Lent this year. (I started a day late, but since I'm not Catholic, I think better late than never.)

For Lent I am giving up negative words. For the next 36 days, I will not criticize, complain, or make any other negative comment.

I have kind of complicated feelings about negative words. I'm a big believer in keeping the air clear and confronting problems. I'm annoyed by people who let bad situations stand because they're too weak or frightened to address the problem. And I think women in particular need to be strong enough to speak truth, even the ugly truth.

But complaints and criticism are definitely also fraught, overused, and misused. I'm giving up negative words not necessarily because they're always bad but as an experiment to better understand them. Kind of like we give up food for a time when fasting in order to learn something deeper. I wonder what I'll think about criticism and complaint once the forty days are over.

(I considered adding sarcasm to the list, but as Mark pointed out, then he'd have to go work and tell everyone that his wife had taken a vow of silence. Apparently I'm not the only one in the family with a sarcasm addiction. Regarding my vow against criticism and complaint, however, Mark considered for a moment and then said, "That sounds like a worthy endeavor," which is a downright ebullient endorsement coming from him.)

I do ask for what I'd like ("Please stop doing that"), make observations ("I see that your sweatshirt is on the kitchen floor"), and give instructions ("Please go blow your nose"), mostly for the kids.

So far it's been hardest not to complain to Mark. I'm realizing how often I reserve him as my repository for all complaints and bad-mouthing of the day. I went to WalMart the other day and am heartbroken that I can't regale him with humorous but critical tales of the horrible things I encountered there.

Wait, was that negative?


  1. Wait, does this mean you and I can't speak for 40 days? Because we do tend to rant to each other. :)

    I was thinking about Lent the other day, too. I wondered what I would give up and what advantages would come from it. I thought of giving up chocolate (which I consume a lot of), but decided that I would only appreciate it more after the 40 days, not eat less of it.

    Can I give up doing laundry for Lent?

  2. You're just lucky you don't work for the Census! There is just so MUCH to complain about in that environment. I printed out Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" to take in and share with my Chinese and Indian co-workers who give us anglos puzzled looks when we quote, "Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do & die".