Question: "How can I stop being a grumpy Christian?"
Answer: Grumpiness characterizes some personality types more than it does others. Some people are born with sunny dispositions and always see the glass half full. Others seem to be grumpy from birth, seeing every glass nearly empty—and who drank it anyway? Unfortunately, even after some grumpy people become Christians, they bring their grumpiness with them. Since they have always been this way, they often believe grumpiness is an integral part of who they are rather than a flaw that needs to be changed. Other Christians may have been happy earlier in life but find themselves being grumpier as they get older. Reasons for grumpiness vary, but life does take its toll. For those who recognize that perpetual grumpiness is at odds with the joy of the Lord (Acts 13:52; Galatians 5:22; Romans 14:17), there are some practical steps to change their attitude:
1. Recognize that continual grumpiness is sin. Consider negative personality traits to be like barnacles on the hull of a boat. Barnacles are the bane of boat owners because the little crustaceans cluster by the thousands, increasing drag and decreasing a boat’s fuel efficiency. Barnacles are also notoriously difficult to remove. Sins of the personality, such as grumpiness, are like that. They attach themselves to our lives, weighing us down and keeping us from experiencing all that it means to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25). The grumpy Christian needs to resist shrugging off the problem by saying things like, “That’s how I’ve always been” or “It’s too difficult to change.” Jesus paid too high a price to free us from our old ways for us to choose to remain enslaved (Romans 6:1–4).
2. Confess grumpiness as sin every time it manifests itself (1 John 1:9). Grumpiness becomes a habit that others see more readily than we do; many grumpy Christians don’t even realize when they’re being grumpy. In order to overcome a grumpy mood, we must agree with God about it. Jesus was never grumpy or cross, despite all that He faced and the cross that He bore (see Luke 10:21). Neither does grumpiness belong in the life of His followers (Romans 8:29). When we begin taking note of the way we respond to certain situations, we can become aware of how we come across to others. If we develop the habit of confessing grumpiness as sin every time we notice it, we become even more sensitive to it, and we can ask God for help in changing our old ways.
3. Thank the Lord for every good gift He has given (James 1:17). A grateful heart is a happy heart. Grumpiness and thanksgiving cannot co-exist. Choose to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Perpetually grumpy people are so focused on what is not right that they overlook what is right. A grumpy Christian may be helped by starting a thankfulness journal. In the journal, record one thing each day that you can be grateful for. Then, when grumpiness sets in, change your focus by reading the journal and reminding yourself of God’s unending goodness.
4. Take a breather. When you find yourself getting grumpy, take a break. Even if it’s just for a few seconds, giving yourself time to step back and reevaluate things is helpful. If you have the time, spend your break praying, reading the Bible, or listening to worshipful music that uplifts Christ. Eat a healthy snack. Find a mirror and check your facial expression. Smile.
5. Identify the areas that contribute to grumpiness. Find the source of the grumpiness, and you can more directly deal with it. Often, grumpy people are attracted to information and people who encourage their grumpiness. They feast on negative news, seek the company of negative people, and listen to discouraging music. Overcoming an attitude of negativity requires that we stop feeding it. We have the responsibility to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). It helps to filter all entertainment and outside information through this sentence: “Does this lift up my heart in praise to God or pull it down into anger and depression?”
A Christian prone to grumpiness can handle it in the same way we overcome any negative trait. We recognize it as sin, ask God’s help in changing, and take action to create a new normal. The reward is a happier outlook, a closer relationship with God, and spiritual growth that will benefit everyone around us.