I have a modest proposal for an addition to the Rosary. I know the four mysteries; I say the Joyful and the Luminous the most often, avoiding the Sorrowful ones whenever possible, as they make my nose run and prompt tears that wet the bedspread where I kneel.
So why make a change when none is truly needed? Remember the book “The Culture of Complaint” by Robert Hughes? It seems much of the dialogue I hear from friends these days is about aching joints, disobedient children, in-laws, busy schedules , sports practice, CCD, and more … a waterfall of negativity. They are not alone; I am guilty of this also with a running litany of things that are not working out in my life: my body, my friendships, and my work.
What happens to relationships when complaints rule the roost, when we forget to praise what our partners and friends do for us? “If you are criticizing each other more than you’re complimenting each other, you’re headed for trouble.” Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, a marriage therapist who works with couples at the Baltimore Therapy Center, says. To take this further, the ratio of praise to complaints is crucial; Bilek recommends having five positive statements to counteract every negative one!
Who do I go to in prayer to help with my tendency to criticize and not balance it with praise? Why, Saints Zelie and Martin, of course. Their household, which has been called “a school for love,” nurtured several daughters into taking orders, including the redoubtable St. Therese of Lisieux. When I ask for their help in our small household of love, I feel supported. I also pray to the Holy Spirit for more aid in spreading love. This pertains to any conversation: perhaps after Mass when I tell my husband I was not inspired by the priest’s homily, but hey, I appreciated his warm welcome; after a sports game, annoyed they took our kid out of the soccer game, but I understand they have to play everyone; after the grocery clerk spills my milk, and I try not to frown, but then she smiles, apologizes, and I smile back; and more. When we do this, we set our lamp on a hill instead of hiding it under the back seat of our minivan.
Countering negativity with praise needs to be a daily theme throughout our lives, almost like a thread of prayer that constantly plays in our heads, linking us more closely to people, de-stressing the folks who serve us, and creating an atmosphere of acceptance in our interactions.
I propose a tweak to the Hail Mary during times when we pray, and our mind is cluttered with complaints. We could add,
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us complainers now and at the hour of our death.
I don’t expect Pope Francis will agree to this, but we can do it when we most need it—when life is hard, our family is fidgety, and we are not at our best.
Pray for us complainers, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Originally published October 14, 2019.