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. You must be excited about the World Cup. 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 elses behaviour and 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?
Personally I would just talk directly to her. Why not? 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? And 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 eventually grow to despise her. 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 your feelings may be hurt and I don’t like that idea at all. But if I don’t say anything I’ll like what happens even less. Grace I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but it’s quite pronounced to the rest of us that you’re extremely negative. You’re always sick, sore, worried, over-worked, disrespected, and unlucky. You are constantly lamenting your existence. It seems odd for a nun to have such a bleak view of the world. Almost everything you say is a complaint or a request for sympathy and the rest of us are finding it exhausting.
I don’t want to speak for others but I’m extremely confident that most people you meet would quickly be aware of this quality. It’s quite a downer. But I don’t want you mistaking this behaviour with anyone not liking you as a person. The whole reason no one wants to tell you this is because they’re afraid your feelings would be hurt and no one wants that. You are fine as a human being. But it’s just a simple fact that this constant claim on so much suffering negates the experiences of the people around you. [Obviously, use your own real examples:] Rose’s mother has Alzheimer’s, Linda’s 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 seems quite cruel when it happens. And I simply can’t believe a nice person like you would be doing that consciously.
Grace, 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 there’s a lot of time spent with negative things then your 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. People will grow to hate you and that’s ridiculous because you’re a nice person. So what do we do?
Keep in mind 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. So go with her to wherever she needs to go. Guilt, apologies, tears, anger—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. Just 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, you might not get many nice passes in soccer from her, but at least you won’t have to listen to her either. 😉
You can endure what you’re enduring and slowly grow to hate her but that feels pretty inactive. Why not make your 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.
Good luck, and good for “Grace” for having friends that care. Big hugs for both of you.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.