Spiritual addictions can be similar. Further, I'd say there are some spiritual diseases that are more contagious than the common cold.
Have you ever had a friend who could never say a nice word about anything or anyone? In every good gift and every happy day, THIS friend was sure to find the gloomy dark cloud. Rather, this friend was YOUR gloomy dark cloud. You may have found yourself laughing off her behavior at first and trying to cheer her up, but soon you started to notice the kernel of truth in some of what she was saying. Then you started to join in with the fault finding. Before long, you weren't laughing at your friend, you were joining in with the cynicism and criticisms solving the worlds problems together with righteous indignation!
I confess to you. I've been the critic, and I've been the friend sucked in by the critic.
Gripe addiction is rampant in our culture. Watch any sitcom or listen to any news commentary, and you will hear it. You'll hear it in PTA meetings as parent's criticize teachers. You'll hear it in doctor's waiting rooms as eager patients complain about the wait time. You'll hear it in the check-out line in Walmart as customers complain about the slow checkers and question the checker's intelligence (True story. That one I heard last week.) Everyone seems to think they are experts in everything, and everyone is a critic. We laugh it off. We take it as a joke after all. That checker deserves my criticism! Go to college!
Beyond our culture, gripe addiction runs rampant in our churches. We hear a lovely sermon, sing lovely songs, head out to lunch and pick apart the minister, laugh about the boredom of bible class, accuse the elders of inaction, and throw the worship leader under the bus all while smiling and eating spaghetti. We are allowed to do that right? As long as we pray before the meal and bless everyone's heart, we can criticize the church family that work for us, right? Right?
When I first realized that I had a gripe addiction, it was when I noticed my children complaining all the time about everything. When your nine-year old becomes a self-proclaimed expert on how a math lesson should and should not be performed, there must be a problem. Does your nine year old already have a teaching certificate? Mine does not.
Gripe addiction comes on slowly. You may be justified in your opinion. You may be right on target with you opinion. I'd even go as far to say that you should share that opinion...with the person who it concerns not the lunch table and not repeatedly to whomever will listen.
Gripe addiction is a fun addiction. When we complain and gripe, it gives us a false sense of control and makes us feel superior. We like this feeling especially if we are right! It takes the focus off of our own inadequacy and insecurities and puts the spotlight on someone else's. Then, we begin to justify our own behaviors, our right to gripe. (You see, I know all this because I'm an expert.)
Typically, gripe addictions begin with rightness. They begin when something truly bad happens, and we are justified in our complaints. From my perspective, this happens in churches a lot. Typically, churches who go through rough times have a hard time pulling out of the valley and getting back to the mountain because so many become addicted to the complaining. I believe this is why churches experience rebound ministries or have ministries dry up entirely. Sometimes we get so accustomed to something being wrong we don't know how to behave when something goes right!
I am on a mission, and I hope you will join me. A year ago I left a habit of cynicism behind and little by little God has helped me let go of that snare (Though, it's still a struggle). Tonight, I hope you'll join me and wave good-bye to gripe addiction. If a Negative Nancy comes your way, acknowledge the complaint, direct her to whom she should share the complaint, and then share a blessing in your life with her. Finally...
"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:6