In the familiar Christmas song, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” kids everywhere are urged to shape up, stop crying, and stop pouting. After all, the jolly giver of gifts to all good children might have elves watching and reporting your actions. You certainly want to be on the “nice,” rather than the “naughty” list.
It’s good advice, not only at Christmastime, but all year. More importantly, it’s good advice for everyone, not just children. Yet many of us indulge in Pouting—and its twin, Whining—long into adulthood and into the next life. Alma teaches us that we take our same disposition with us after we die, so be prepared to meet folks with the same ornery outlooks they had here. We don’t just magically become adorable upon dying, if we were obnoxious to the end in this life.
And too many of us are. How many co-workers, friends, and yes, ward members, do you know who would rather pout than take action to solve their problems? I have a friend in another ward who has been miffed for months that her bishop hasn’t sought her out and introduced himself yet (and the other members are equally unfriendly). When I ask if she has gone up to him, extended her hand, and introduced herself, she claims she is simply not one to take the first step like that.
“Well,” I said, “What if he isn’t, either? Then you two will never meet.” Invariably, the same folks who hang back quietly waiting for their new ward to embrace them, don’t allow for shyness in others. They expect everyone to rally around with hugs and greetings, when they themselves have never done this to newbies, either.
Let’s face a fact: Most people are not gregarious. Also, they’re busy with their own concerns on Sundays—their calling, their kids, perhaps their meeting with the bishop to repent. We have no idea what myriad of thoughts could be swirling through someone’s head, keeping them from seeking out the new member or visitor. People who sit quietly and resentfully in the back, waiting for their new ward to be cold and unfriendly again, are far more preoccupied with self pity than with meeting new people. They are pouting, as surely as a child who doesn’t get his way. And they get the added benefit of being able to whine and complain about it later.
I once moved to a new neighborhood where the neighbors were all very self-occupied. No one stopped in to welcome us with a plate of cookies, no one waved, no one said hello. So I baked up six loaves of pumpkin bread and went door to door and introduced our family. Who cares who makes the first move? The goal is to meet a new person and get to know them. I was greeted by surprised neighbors for whom such a gesture had never once been offered. No wonder they didn’t know to do it; nobody in their lives had ever set the example. We made several friends that day; it’s so much better to be proactive than to sit home, whine, and lick your wounds.
Pouting also happens in marriages. Partners wait for their spouse to read their mind—which is never going to happen—and then wrap themselves up in a cloak of self- righteousness, convinced they have been wronged and neglected. Phooey. Speak up and communicate what you want. It doesn’t cancel out the gesture because you had to request it. In fact, for someone to give you the XYZ you want when it goes against their basic nature makes it even more of a gift.
We see bosses, co-workers, ward members, and friends pout over real or imagined slights. Something wasn’t fair (do you mean to tell me you stumble upon fairness so often that you think it should be a frequent occurrence? What planet are you living on?) They wait for the universe to magically even everything out, and when this doesn’t happen they become bitter, cynical, and angry at the world. A much better approach is to set aside the injustice and move forward, creating the success you thought would be handed to you.
Feeling like a victim, feeling unlucky and deprived, leads to jealousy and even rage. Look at the class warfare we see growing in the world. The have-nots are being taught to hate the haves. Instead of structuring their lives in order to accomplish their goals, succeed and become one of the haves, people are accepting the message that such dreams are hopeless and the few who are lucky in marriage, finance, whatever—are greedy pigs who must be brought down and vanquished.
When you have an entitlement problem, you have a pouting problem. You have given up the notion that you can improve your circumstances—or at least your reaction to them—and you are at the mercy of the fates. You become convinced that nothing you do can improve the situation, and a bitter attitude is justified. You are playing right into the adversary’s hands.
I doubt that J. Fred Coots or Haven Gillespie, writers of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” realized how vital their advice was, for evading Satan’s clutches. Like many of us, they probably just wanted kids to stop whimpering because it’s so annoying. But, in fact, taking inventory of how much we whine and complain might be a good exercise for all of us. Pouting gets us nowhere, it helps us justify giving up, and probably even lands us on the “naughty” list. Let those reasons alone help us eradicate this temptation all year, and we’ll be much happier. We might even feel like singing a jolly Christmas tune again.
*Yes, like many of you, it pains me to write “You” instead of “You’d,” but this is how the lyrics were written. Oh, well. You’d better not pout, you’d better not cry, you’d best use good grammar, and you ought to know why.
Cruise with Joni and her husband, Bob, to Spain, Italy, and France May 12-19, 2012. Double occupancy starting at only $659.00 per person! See jonihilton.com for more information
Joni Hilton has written 17 books, three award-winning plays, and is a frequent public speaker and a former TV talk show host. Her latest book, “Funeral Potatoes– The Novel,” has just been scheduled for publication this February, by Covenant Communications. She is also the author of the “As the Ward Turns” series, “The Ten-Cow Wives’ Club,” and “The Power of Prayer.” Hilton is a frequent writer for “Music & The Spoken Word,” many national magazines, and can be reached at her website, jonihilton.com. She is married to TV personality Bob Hilton, is the mother of four, and currently serves as Relief Society President in her ward in northern California.