Carroll Spinney is the magnificent puppeteer who’s spent most of his career giving life to Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. When Oscar was first being created, Mr. Spinney needed to come up with a voice that would fit the irritable, but lovable green monster. He played around with a few possibilities, but none of them seemed quite right. Then one day he climbed into a New York City cab. The out-of-sorts driver looked over his shoulder and growled, “Where to, Mac?” At that moment, Carroll Spinney knew he’d found the perfect voice for Oscar and spent the rest of the day mimicking the cab driver to make sure he didn’t lose it.*
I share this story because I’m convinced it represents the only time in human history that grouchiness produced a positive result. Can you think of even one time in your life when you encountered a grouchy person and walked away feeling better?
I didn’t think so.
Of course, everybody gets grouchy sooner or later. Give the perkiest little Pollyanna an ingrown toenail and watch what happens. The danger arises when a person discovers that grouchiness actually has its advantages. There might be a person in your life right now–a boss, a parent, or a spouse–that you bend over backward to please because you don’t want to trigger a tirade. (Or perhaps the people in your world are walking on eggshells around you!) Grouchy people are not stupid. They quickly figure out what’s making other people bow to their whims.
But few traits are more out of place in the life of a Christian. When the apostle Paul described Christian love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, he said that it isn’t “rude” or “irritable.” Then in Ephesians 4:31 he commanded his readers to get rid of all “harsh words.” Bottom line: you get some slack for an ingrown toenail (or some other temporary aggravation), but there’s no excuse for chronic grouchiness in the life of a person who claims to have been touched and changed by the love of Christ.
For further reflection read Proverbs 11:17 and Galatians 5:22-26
*Carroll Spinney, The Wisdom of Big Bird (New York: Villard, 2003), 51