I set a goal. I set a goal in January to complain less. I caught myself out on a number of occasions leading up to the setting of the goal that surprised me. I never saw myself as a ‘complaining’ person – someone I had defined as an annoying, self-centred, selfish wannabe who argued about everything, and to whom was satisfied by nothing. I never saw myself as this dark, crude painted image I had imagined. Yet I heard myself complaining. And once I set the goal, and was looking, I heard it even more.
I complained about something at work, I complained about how long it took in the traffic one morning, I complained about how unfair my roster was, or how disappointed I was in global politics at that time, or how inefficient I was at the time managing my busy work-life schedule. I complained that I didn’t have enough time for quiet, or that it was cold, or that my wardrobe didn’t reflect my current idea of the ‘ideal winter wardrobe’. I complained that I was not losing weight the way I had hoped. Don’t hear me wrong – I wasn’t just having a tantrum all day, every day.
But rather I found that in the craziness of life sometimes, my default had been to complain. To focus on where things weren’t ‘adequate’, rather than being grateful for where they were.
Each time I heard myself complaining, or my beautiful accountable parents would remind me of my goal, I made a new goal to be better again. Yet, almost like expectant clockwork, I would fault again and again. Why? Why is it so hard to be thankful, or grateful instead of just disappointed?
Is it a cultural default? I’ve definitely noticed it is common workplace chatter- what the boss did this week, or which patient/client was annoying.
I am convicted when I read Philippians 2:14-15
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like starts in the sky.”
How do we make it so Lord? How do we become blameless and pure in a ‘crooked generation’.
Goodness, if it was crooked then, what do you call it now? And we are far from blameless.
How then do I respond to all these things? Is it enough to say, I’m not interested? Or I’ll always default to bad, fall short, but He who is gracious makes up for it every time so then what’s the point? Or, is complaining even sinning?
Yes to all. You should be interested in trying to not complain, although we’re not.
Yes, the Lord will make up for your faults, and you will probably mostly fall short, but it’s never an acceptable answer to reply ‘What’s the point?’. What was the point of Jesus dying if you’re all going to be ungrateful anyway?
The point is that it is within the Lords heart for us to not complain or sin. It is within the Lords plan for us to be reconciled with Him. It is in our heart therefore to please the Lord, to not sin, to do everything within us to try to ‘not complain’.
Golly, the whole idea of never complaining again sounds hard. Maybe this will help:
Make a list of everything you’re grateful for off the top of your head – we very easily forget as humans what we have in life. Make a list, make it visual.
Add to that list, the counteraction, every time you catch yourself complaining. Add it to ‘Notes’ on your phone – ‘That person is complaining again’ – but I am grateful for the job I get to give and the love I get to share with someone who the Lord knows and loves. (Ironically, you’re complaining about the person complaining! Haha)
‘I’m sick of this rain’ – I’m grateful for the way the Lord made ecosystems, and weather to support the world we live in. It means water for the ground that needs it.
Overtime, I notice my default shifting away from inadequacy to adequacy.
Just a note on the world: I’ve learnt that things can be bad and better at time same time. There can be inadequacies in the world, but also improvements compared to 50 years ago in the same areas and therefore, adequacies.
It is important to remember, because we can be grateful for things and things not be perfect at the same time- you need to remember this so that you don’t create a perspective of the world that in itself is inadequate.
We need to be still moved by things in this world that are wrong so that we continue to fight for them with our hearts as well as our minds. But we cannot think that things are hopeless either.
We have a hope. His name is Jesus.
Hold firmly to the word of life, be glad and rejoice in it.
And finally, dear brothers and sisters,
Help one another be grateful.
– K xx