Sometimes I get crabby. When I do, I can often point to several root causes: the injustices I perceive in the world around me and in my personal life; the pain and sorrow of others as well as my own; the state of the economy, society, education, family life, the planet, and the church; my own sense of isolation or loneliness; or the plain old experience of uncertainty, lack of control, or things not going my way.
When I’m crabby, little things irritate me and I find myself thinking things like these: “Why can’t she be more patient?… why can’t he offer to help me?… this coffee is too cold… this lemonade is too warm… those birds are too noisy… she’s too doggone cheerful… wearing this mask is so uncomfortable… why is everybody so crabby?”
When I’m crabby, I’m ashamed of my crabbiness. I tell myself, “How can you be so crabby over these minor annoyances when so many other people are bearing such major loads in their lives?” This line of thinking sometimes makes me even more crabby!
My crabbiness led me to do a little research on crabbiness. I learned the root word crabby can be traced back to the Old English word crabba meaning to scratch or claw. Yes, it’s related to the crab’s tendency to painfully nip with its claws and hang on. Crabs also appear to walk sideways and even backwards, analogous to a difficult or uncooperative person. (Poor crabs! Too bad their name is associated with such negative qualities. Instead of saying, “You’re such a crab today.” Why don’t we say, “You’re such an otter today!—or such a chipmunk today!” We don’t—because otters and chipmunks are cute and fuzzy. But remember: all crabs are not crabs… and even otters and chipmunks can be crabs some days!)
Prior to the 18th Century, crabby meant crooked, gnarled, rough. In about 1776 there’s evidence that the meaning of crabby became what it essentially means today: disagreeable, sour, cranky, easily irritated, grouchy.
I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to a crabby day every now and then. But not every day. Not even 50% of the days–or even 10%. I can excuse some crabbiness, because we’re all human. Also, being pleasant takes a lot of energy, and sometimes our energy supply is low. Our crabbiness can also indirectly build community by calling forth virtues (such as patience) in the people who have to deal with our occasional crabbiness. And finally, crabbiness keeps us humble. It often requires that we apologize for our unpleasantness. (gulp!)
Was Jesus ever crabby? After all, he was human. I think there’s evidence in the Gospels that Jesus was crabby on several occasions. His encounter with that Syro-Phonecian woman shows him becoming very irritated by her insistence that he cure her daughter (Mk. 7:24-30 I wrote about her under “The Canaanite Woman” January 18, 2016). He gets impatient with his apostles—most notably Peter (Mt. 16:23) and Phillip (Jn. 14:8-9). Then there are all those interactions with the Pharisees…
How do you deal with your crabbiness? (Notice I’m assuming you are crabby—every now and then!) First I try to get some extra sleep… go for a leisurely walk… do something I enjoy doing—like reading a good book, calling a friend, solving a crossword puzzle, working on my blog, sitting by the lake and watching the red-winged blackbird shooing the blue heron away from the area where his nest is (like I did today!) I even take my crabbiness to prayer.
Loving God, I’m crabby. And I have some good reasons for being crabby too. But I ask you to help me emerge from this cocoon of crabbiness and become once again a more pleasant person to be with, live with, and work with. At the same time, allow my crabbiness to speak to me. It may be urging me to do something… to make a few changes in my life… to rearrange my priorities… to let go of something… to grow in patience and understanding of others… and to remember my absolute need for your love, strength, and direction in my life. Amen.
What makes you crabby? What helps you get over your crabbiness?
Does you crabbiness ever “speak to you” and cause you to change something, do something, let go of something, lead you to prayer?
PS: I ask your prayers for the zoom retreat I’m facilitating this week, sponsored by King’s House Retreat Center in Belleville, IL. We will have 71 individuals making this retreat from 15 different states, Canada, and India. The retreat begins Monday evening and concludes next Sunday morning. I will let the retreatants know you are holding them in special prayer. I’m sure that will mean a lot to them. Thank you so much!
Our song today is “Perfect Peace” by Laura Story. I like her gentle voice, the beautiful words, and the exquisite visuals. I hope you may hear God saying these words to you today…
I invite you to respond below to today’s words, song, or other readers’ comments…