Lets face it. Things are often not right. People don’t always treat me right. I am frequently inconvenienced by the thoughtless decisions of others. There are always bothersome things like ridiculous traffic or bad weather or irritating people…and there is always a reason to be unhappy.
We actually complain a lot!
If you’ll open your ears, you’ll find that complaining is an integral part of most people’s daily conversations. “We use complaints as icebreakers,” says Robin Kowalski, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Clemson University. “We start a conversation with a negative observation because we know that will get us a bigger response than saying something positive would.”
We often start talking to people by saying, “It’s so hot outside today!” “It’s raining!” “Did you see the terrible news about the earthquake!”
There are positive ways to deal with bad stuff other than just complaining. When things are really wrong, we do need to address them. We do need to speak up. Recently I spoke with a woman who worked for many years in a company. She had a stormy relationship with her boss, whom she felt did not listen to anything she said- yet she was in management. So one day she realized this relationship was having a negative effect on her life. She decided to have an open conversation with her boss. She laid it all out- everything that was causing her frustration and grief. Her boss actually listened! She said to me, “I’m not sure anything will change, but I did tell him what was troubling me. I felt very relieved and all the tension has left.”
I don’t see that as complaining. Rather, it was clearly and positively drawing attention to what is wrong with the objective of improvement, understanding or communication.
Complaining is a habit we get into. We bellyache to anyone who crosses our path or anyone who will listen. Complaining is the constant finding of the negative in life. Chronic complainers feel like victims and act like victims. They talk too much and listen too little. Rarely are they hoping for positive suggestions; they just like to gripe. They may take hours of your time explaining, describing and relating problems and then reject your advice or efforts to help.
Complaining is simply describing an event or person negatively without indicating next steps to fix the problem. You could add to that the normal words of profanity that come out. For most people this may compile 30-40% of their conversation!
One of the reasons we complain is that we may not have anything good to talk about. Inconvenience is so obvious and we’ll certainly get sympathy and support. Isn’t it nice to get support or agreement when you have something to whine about?
So whine and “boohoo” is the order of the day. Some people have even perfected the whiny tone of voice about everything- as if they somehow should always be treated right. Life is rarely fair; just accept that.
It takes no thoughtfulness to complain. Most everyone does it, so it is acceptable and even encouraged. I’ve seen temper fits in airports when flights were delayed by bad weather. It’s as if the airline was to blame. I’ve seen road rage over simple unavoidable traffic accidents. Some people curse their broken down car while never properly maintaining it. Or if they have less-than-perfect house help they go on and on about the incompetence, errors and mistakes. (Yet the same person will bring in someone from the province with no work experience and expect a 5 star employee! And all for a fraction of minimum wage.)
My point is that a percentage of life troubles are actually brought on by ourselves. So why are we complaining as if we are the always the victim?
When things are beyond our control- like the heat or the rain- why would we waste so much energy complaining about what we can do nothing about?
I believe that for Christians to complain may actually be very close to a sin. Think about our bold statements about the love of God, the goodness of God, the faithfulness of God, the provisions of God! Where does that fit into a believer’s life when we complain, complain, complain?
We see the signs on the back of vehicles…”may raklamo ka? Itawag mo sa….(Do you have a complaint? Call…) and then a number to call.
If you are a Christian, than you have submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Nothing is going to happen to you that He will not give you grace to endure and to conquer. Complaining would be to insult His provisions and His love.
There is no way to fix this negative behavior without controlling our thoughts and disciplining our words. Thoughts feed our words. So a negative, victimized thinker will be a complainer.
I suggest we need a revival of thanksgiving. Joy comes in the giving of thanks for who God is to us, even in our human discomfort.
Yes, even when things go wrong.
Yes, even when bad things happen.
The giving of thanks for people and circumstances will totally change your voice tone. I remember a few weeks back having a flat tire on my motorcycle while I was rushing to pay some property taxes. This was hugely inconvenient. I stopped, took my helmet off, looked around for a tire shop, but none was in sight. I had to push my bike several blocks. I still remember choosing to thank God for the moment. I said, “Lord, this is hugely inconvenient but I’m ok. I did not have an accident. I am not sick, I’m just inconvenienced.” I was amazed at the change in my energy level as I took the next hour to solve this problem.
People, take the “no complaining” challenge.
I challenge you to stop complaining for 30 days and see how it will change your life. It’s a bad habit. It’s an unchristian habit. It’s a negative habit. It solves no problems and serves no purpose in life.
We are the people of God. God is for us. We will overcome. So why complain? Pray instead! Rejoice instead! Give thanks instead!