We have a Nun on my ladies soccer team and I’m sure she’s got a good heart but she is driving us all crazy. She’s a wonderful woman in many ways but she is constantly telling us about how hard her life is and how unfortunate she is. To us she keeps describing a pretty normal life. She just bitches about hers a million times more than anyone else. How do we make it stop before we all hate her. We play outdoors and we don’t want to get hit by lightning.
🙂 I liked the lightning joke. Good for you for playing a team sport and for staying active and healthy. And I appreciate you sending in the question but it’s challenging because we’re talking about changing someone else’s behaviour.
They’re not in this conversation —unless you’re planning on leaving this in her stall in the dressing room? Yes, maybe you can influence her, but I would ask, why not be direct?
Is there some reason (other ones based on insecurity) that you can’t just talk directly to her? If the whole motivation is to stay close to her and like her, why would someone be offended that someone else wanted to know how they could accomplish that?
Frankly, if she is that negative maybe you can be a catalyst for personal change and spiritual growth for her. But right now you and everyone else is just being dishonest. You’re looking at her and smiling and you’re giving her all of the social signals that she’s succeeding and yet in truth she is failing but cannot do anything about it because no one has even told her it’s happening.
If you do or say nothing then you’ll all eventually grow to despise her. That’s reasonable. Who wants to listen to negativity all the time? To avoid that happening I would simply say something along the lines of, “Grace, I need to talk to you about something delicate. It’s delicate because I think it might hurt your feelings and I don’t like that idea at all. But if I don’t say anything I’ll like what happens even less.”
Something like that. Then maybe something like, “I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but have you noticed that you often present yourself as being sick, sore, worried, over-worked, disrespected, and unlucky? And we understand that. We often are too. But unlike most people, you are constantly sharing your laments but rarely your joys. I’m wondering if your life might need more joy in it?”
If things are still open, don’t rush it, but you can even add something like, “I hope you don’t mind me saying that but I do it out of love. The reason I’ve found it hard to figure out how to bring up is, it seems odd for a nun to have such a bleak view of the world.
“Have you noticed that almost everything you say is a complaint or a request for sympathy? You’re a nun that lots of see as a form of spiritual leader. But if we’re going to identify what’s wrong with the world –and I agree with you there’s lots to improve on– shouldn’t we focus on the improvements and not the complaints?
“Grace, it is not hard for anyone to tell that you are a wonderful human being. But I worry about how this makes others, who are also suffering, feel. Because it appears that your life is always the worst one among us. But is that really true?”
[Obviously, use your own real examples:] “Rose’s mother has Alzheimer’s, Linda and her husband just broke up, and Hilda’s youngest got diagnosed with cancer. But even though you’re a nun you never ask them about their lives or ask if you can help with their issues. You always download yours on top of the ones they already have. I’m sorry to be so blunt Grace, but it almost seems cruel when it happens, and yet I know you can’t mean that intentionally.”
If she wants to talk about it, do. If she asks what to do, ask her questions. “Are you sure you’re not locked into a negative frame of mind where you’re thinking about your own troubles too much?
“What percentage of your conversations are about hardship or pain or suffering? Because if we spend too much time with negative things, then anyone’s psychological, physical and spiritual health will suffer.”
“Is there any way I can help, or is there a way your spiritual life can contribute to resolving this? Because we can’t just leave it like this Grace. I want to keep being close to you, but not if it means I end up always being reminded of everything sad. I’m just not strong enough for that. Maybe religion helps you carry that weight, but I want to enjoy my time with you, not half-dread it.”
Obviously all of this will be brutal for her to hear. I feel for her already. It’ll feel like a Pele-bicycle-kick to the stomach. It’s a world-view-changer. Those are pretty huge things.
That being the case, go with her to wherever she needs to go. Anger at you, guilt, apologies, tears —if she yells at you or if she runs away and needs space then okay. Whatever. Just be present in that moment and be the caring person you naturally are and you will be fine. You did take the time to write this, so clearly you care about her.
Don’t over-think it. Tell her the truth and then let the universe percolate. You’ve done a loving act. Still, maybe she’ll hate you. But even if she does, at least you can feel like you acted out of love and respect. And if she ends the friendship, well then at least you solved the entire team’s challenge, because that way no one would have to listen to her anymore
You can endure what you’re enduring and slowly grow to hate her but that feels pretty inactive. Why not make improve life good by making the kind of choices that will naturally lead it to being better? Be conscious. Be open. Be honest. And then let the chips fall where they may.
There are many routes to happiness for all of us. Your route doesn’t necessarily have to have a super sad nun on it. And hers can have a friend that shares some hard truths.
Good luck, and good for “Grace” for having friends that care. Big hugs for both of you.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.