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Vow to speak positive to yourself and others

  • Published
  • By Chap. (Lt. Col.) Donnette Boyd
  • 451st Air Expeditionary Wing chaplain
Immediately upon arriving at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, I realized this is a place that can make or break you -- your attitude will determine your latitude. I made a vow, shortly after arriving at KAF, to not complain to anyone about anything, unless the person I am complaining to has the ability to fix whatever I'm complaining about. You might wonder how far I plan to go with this vow. Does the vow include the dust, the dining facility food and the plumbing? Yes, the vow includes everything! For example, I can complain about the DFAC food if I am complaining to the DFAC manager and I can complain about the plumbing if I am speaking to someone in Army who oversees it. But, because of my vow, I won't complain about the food to someone in my section, or the plumbing to my roommate. This vow will not only enhance my experience and personal growth (not to mention my effectiveness as a chaplain), but it will prevent me from "infecting" other's attitudes with my gripe of the day.

Complaining comes natural to us as humans. Most people have a tendency to notice what's not quite as good as we'd like, and then verbalize it. In field conditions and remote environments, the gripes can become habit forming. Complaining can become addictive as well as contagious over time. Additionally, when we complain to others who have no way of fixing our problem, we essentially use them as a Kandahar "reflecting pond," dumping our excess baggage on them, knowing they can't do anything with it except take it all in. How easily we tend to forget the recipient of our unloading is in the same predicament we are. Perhaps they need someone to unload them, not dump more on them.

As I researched the scriptures, I noticed that complaints never seemed to be a problem when directed at someone with the ability or authority to address the problem. The prophets complained to God all the time. In fact, Jeremiah did an awful lot of complaining. Moses complained as well, but the only time he got in trouble with God was when he yelled out at the children of Israel (Numbers 20:1-13) instead of just doing his job. There is an interesting passage, in which, the more the children of Israel complained, the more God gave them something to complain about (Numbers 21:4-9). I got the impression that God doesn't like for us to use one another as reflecting ponds. Rather, He prefers we bring all our gripes to Him (1 Peter 5:7). Our families, our wingman and our supervisors care about us, but I believe it is best to give our anxieties and complaints to God because He cares about us more than anyone and knows our every need.

You might be saying to yourself at this point, what else is there to talk about? If we don't complain about the food, what else can we talk about as we dine? Funny you should ask! You can find something positive to say about the food in-place of your gripe, such as, "the lettuce looks fresh" or (something I actually heard someone say) "the ham is a nice color today." Instead of complaining about all the dust, you can say how excited you are about the lack of pollen (especially if you have outdoor allergies). Instead of complaining about the plumbing you can say how thankful you are for indoor plumbing and the fact that our fellow Airmen actually flush behind themselves on occasion. What about the odor? Well ... thank God your nose still works and is doing its part to serve our nation's cause!

If you make positive statements to those around you, not only will you internalize the positive energy, but you will create a positive atmosphere around you. Pretty soon, people will enjoy being around you and occasionally hang out with you for no apparent reason.

I challenge each of you to make this vow with me to speak positive things to yourself and others, and I guarantee you this will be the best deployment experience you've ever had. If you try this and it doesn't work (you are still miserable the entire time, made no friends and counted days that seemed like weeks), make an appointment with me and I will do my best to encourage you and speak some positivity into your life. I'll be here until June 2011.