At Work & Theology 101

The Challenge of the Christian Curmudgeon

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Oscar the Grouch is possibly the most famous curmudgeon in the world. He is a bitter, grumpy, complaining trash can dweller. He gripes about everything that doesn’t suit him.

In the Sesame Street movie Follow That Bird, Oscar introduces us to “The Grouch Anthem.” Part of the song goes like this:

Grouches of the world unite!
Stand up for your grouchly rights!
Don’t let the sunshine spoil the rain
Just stand up and complain.

Let this be the grouches’ cause:
Point out everybody’s flaws!
Something is wrong with everything
Except the way I sing!

Oscar’s anthem reveals the heart of the curmudgeon: There is something wrong with everything and everyone. But, there’s nothing wrong with me.

No Christian Curmudgeons

We’re called to have a completely different worldview than Oscar.

In I Corinthians 13:5, the Apostle Paul challenges us with the truth that love is not irritable.

Irritability comes in many forms at work: being short with others, lashing out, being impatient, being unreasonable. It is the outward expression of a lack of inner joy, contentment and peace. In some cases, it may also reveal our idols of jealousy, insecurity, or need for control.

It’s tempting to blame our irritability on the pressures and stresses of work and life. We may even convince ourselves that our bitterness is the result of other people’s shortcomings.

The reality is that irritability is a reflection of our heart, not a reflection of our circumstances. Paul was joyful – and even sang – in a jail cell. In the hours before his death, Jesus prayed about his joy (John 17:13).

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.

– Philippians 4:4-5

We are to be known for our joy and for our reasonableness. According to this model of love for one another, there should be no Christian curmudgeons.

Focus On Building One Another Up

How can we confront our own irritability? How can we be more Christ-like in the workplace?

The key is to focus on building others up rather than insisting on our own way.

If you struggle with an irritable, argumentative spirit at work, here are four things that might help:

  • Remember the dignity of your colleagues. Spend time reflecting on the Creation account in Genesis 1-2. Pray through these passages, asking God to help you see the great value he has placed in your colleagues as his image-bearers.
  • Replace cynicism with hope and joy. Cynicism can cause us to lose hope by preventing us from seeing the good in anything or anyone. By contrast, the advent, life, death, resurrection and eventual return of Christ give us great reason to hope. These truths will transform everything we think about everything.
  • Listen, think, then speak. When we are irritable, listening to others is often the last thing we want to do. Knowing our struggle with this, the Holy Spirit has given us several passages (Proverbs 12:15, 15:1, 29:20, James 1, etc.) to encourage us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.
  • Diffuse irritability with kindness. When confronted by an irritable colleague, it’s tempting to fight fire with fire. The Apostle Paul, however, instructs us that love is patient and kind. The life of Jesus shows how we are to live. He is direct and honest, but also slow to anger and never irritable.

Thank you for reading our blog. All of us at IFWE hope that you find these posts helpful, and we’d love to hear your feedback.

Next up in our series on Love at Work: Love is not resentful.

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