It seems like everywhere I go, people are complaining about something.
The line at the grocery store is too long. The price of gasoline is too high. The customer service at the restaurant is not existent. The weather is too hot. The government is too big. The ex husband is too… himself. The girlfriend is moody. The kids are ungrateful. The mother-in-law is too nosey. The favorite sports team stinks. This list is too long, etc.
What is remarkable to me is not the fodder available to create a complaint. As long as you are breathing there will be something to complain about. I’m more impressed with the speed at which the complaint travels. Car commercials often brag about how fast a car can get to 60 mph from a dead start. We seem to be able to go from “zero to complaint” in nano-seconds.
(By the way – this blog is not complaining about the complainers)
But that does bring up a good point. What makes a true statement a true statement and what turns it into a complaint? By saying, “I’m not complaining” does that actually make it a non-complaint? (See above parenthesis. Through subtle repetition I will make you believe I’m not actually complaining.)
At the time of this writing, it is over 100 degrees outside. By anyone’s standards it is a hot day. It’s so hot that it’s hard to not talk about. The weather is always a favorite topic among strangers, especially when the weather is extreme. But if I say to Mr. Stranger, “It is really hot outside“, am I complaining or merely sharing a fact? Is it the actual words that make it a complaint or the tone of the sentence or the attitude of my heart? I think we would have to agree that all three play a critical role in determining whether the sentence crosses the line into complaint.
I think it comes down to this – you know in your heart whether you are sharing a fact or voicing a complaint. And like it or not – your listeners know it too. We all recognize a complaint when we hear it. We can all point out a complainer in a line up. A general rule of thumb could be this: Say it once, it’s an observation. Say it more than once: it’s a complaint.
It turns out that complaining has been around for thousands of years – even back as early as the Garden of Eden. By the second recorded sentence of mankind, Adam complains that the reason he ate the forbidden fruit was because the woman (who God gave him) made him do it! Centuries later, we find the Israelites wandering the desert of Sinai. At this point in their national existence they have personally witnessed God deliver them from Pharaoh’s army in spectacular fashion by literally parting the red sea as their escape (Exodus 14). They have watched God turn dew into bread (called manna) morning after morning – exactly what they needed for that day (Exodus 16). Every evening “quails came up and covered the camp” (Exodus 16:13) to feed them. They even had their thirst quenched (in the desert of all places!) as God provided water from a rock, at Moses’ command (Exodus 17). And if that wasn’t enough – they watched the Israelite army defeat the powerful enemy Amalekites simply because Moses held his arms up in the air (Exodus 17). In spite of all of these miracles and providences, God’s people constantly complained until God finally decided to teach His ungrateful children a painful lesson. Apparently God’s remedy for complaining is poisonous snakes. (Numbers 20 & 21 tell the whole story)
Allow me to share seven reasons why you should seriously stop complaining. If you are a chronic complainer, pay attention:
- No one wants to hear it. Do you enjoy listening to other people complain? Then why would you think someone wants to listen to you. Most people have enough negative drama in their life. They don’t need your help to add to the pile.
- It reveals an ungrateful heart. Grateful people don’t complain. They don’t have time. They are much too busy thanking someone for their blessings. A busy businessman might complain about a long-line at the grocery store. A homeless man is grateful he has bread for today. An American woman might complain she has “nothing to wear” while the woman in Ethiopia is grateful she has clothes on her back. There is a popular Indian proverb that reads, “I cried when I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Put your grievance into perspective. There is always someone worse off than you.
- It does not solve problems. Rarely does complaining solve the problem being complained about. Yes, the line at the bank is long. But talking about how annoying it is does not make the line move any quicker. Engaging in positive conversation does not make the line move any quicker either but it does seem to make the time go by faster. And who knows, you may make a new friend in the process. I’m always open to making a new, grateful friend.
- It’s the hobby of the immature. Toddlers complain. Children complain. Teenagers complain. The mature quietly endure the trial. Grow up. Act like an adult. Otherwise, hold your breath and stomp your feet. Because complaining looks just as ridiculous coming out of an adult mouth.
- It sets a bad example. Whether we realize it or not, our children learn from our example. If you find yourself raising a houseful of complainers, you may need to take an inventory of your speech. Whether you like it or not, your behavior can even influence strangers. Complaining never occurs alone as all complainers need a complainee to listen to them.
- It angers God. As the Great Provider, He does not like it when people are ungrateful. You don’t either. I get annoyed when the car in front of me does not acknowledge the fact that I let him in my lane. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to provide sunshine for an entire planet and be ignored in the process. The truth is – God graciously gives to all and relatively few acknowledge His presence. Many even deny His existence with the air He put in their lungs.
- The issue you are complaining about may be put there by God on purpose for a reason. Perhaps you need to learn some patience and so the long line is His gift to help you gain some. Perhaps you need to learn how to love and so the annoying co-worker is placed on your “team” to give you more practice. Maybe He wants you to work on your forgiving spirit and so He is putting you in a position to forgive others – more often than you desire. Whatever it is – don’t go assuming that the point of complaint is all about you. He could be putting you in a difficult position today so you can show someone else tomorrow how to get through the same thing.
I have spent over three months of my life serving people in third world countries. I have been in the remote jungles of Ecuador. I have been in the poorest villages of the Dominican Republic. I have seen unmatched poverty on the streets of Guatemala. Even in some of our American cities, I have worked with people who literally had nothing. I found them to be extremely happy and sincerely grateful – with nothing. In the Dominican Republic, one woman was so honored that I entered her home that she literally pulled off a prized piece of artwork from her wall to give it to me. No American has ever offered me something off of their wall. The artwork looked like something you would find at a rejected yard sale. Her home was a hut and would have been unworthy to store my lawnmower. That is where she lays down, night after night. She couldn’t have been happier. I cried as I realized she had something I didn’t back then – a grateful heart.
Next time you want to complain about anything – think about that. She can teach us all a lesson on how to be grateful.
(This blog was not a complaint. I am Rod Arters and I approve this message.)