Beth Jacks Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2008

Grandmother knew that whining hurts ability to communicate

“It takes a genius to whine appealingly.”
 ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Two messages last week started me thinking about what goes into making a happy, successful life. In fact, that was the question posed by a reader (Paula T.) in the first note – “What’s the secret?” she asked. The second note came from my longtime friend, Vida T., responding to a column I’d written about wise Southern grandmother sayings.

Since my life is still ongoing, at least at this writing, I didn’t have a definitive answer for Paula – so far, so good for me, but nobody’s immune to trouble. I wrote back and said, “Let me think about this.”

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That very afternoon, Vida’s note arrived in my e-mail box, saying: “My grandmother used to have many wise sayings, but the one I quote most often is: ‘Whining is not an attractive habit. Do not acquire it.’ I could not have been more than four the first time she said that to me, and I do not whine, nor do my children. It is not allowed!”

Whoa! Here was at least one clue about joyful living. Whiners are not happy people and they’re no fun, whether they’re toddlers, teens, adults or Methuselahs. We scold them; we sigh and endure them; we avoid them or learn to turn a deaf ear to their wailing and complaining.

This is unfortunate, because at times they may have something constructive to say…  but nobody’s listening.

Re-reading the two notes, then and there, I had an AHA! moment.

There can be no happiness and success when we lose the ability to communicate due to our own whining and self-pity. To be alienated because of a rotten attitude has got to be lonely and depressing. We can do without a lot of things in life, but the respect of others and respect for ourselves is absolutely necessary for happiness.

Og Mandino, an American essayist and psychologist, once wrote: “Each day is a special gift from God, and while life may not always be fair, you must never allow the pains, hurdles and handicaps of the moment to poison your attitude and plans for yourself and your future. You can never win when you wear the ugly cloak of self-pity, and the sour sound of whining will certainly frighten away any opportunity for success.”

Misfortunes will come – everybody deserves a little whine time – but when complaining becomes a habit you’ll find yourself all by your lonesome with not a friend in this world to pat your back and say, “Maybe things will be better tomorrow…”

For the chronic complainer, however, things are not likely to get better without a major attitude adjustment. Friends find out quickly when they try to help that all they’ll get is more “woe-is-me,” so they become MIA friends, and nobody blames ‘em.

Helen Keller, blind and deaf, could have been a miserable lamenter. Instead, she adjusted her attitude, approached life in a positive way, worked hard, didn’t blame others for her misfortune, and became one of our nation’s most respected citizens. As my good friend Sank Powe says, “A negative personality gets you nothing but a back step to sit your rear on. Attitude makes the big difference.”

“Attitude is contagious,” goes the bumper sticker. “Is yours worth catching?”

So there you go. I wrote Paula again, quoting Vida and Sank and Og Mandino, and got this back:

“Thanks! I also found this bit of advice that your readers might like. It’s a Swedish proverb: ‘Fear less and hope more; eat less and chew more; whine less and breathe more; talk less and say more; love more, and all good things will be yours.’”

Yes, good things will be yours, including a happy, successful life with the respect of your family, friends and community, and most important, with respect for yourself.

I shoulda been a preacher.