There's a long cue! --That cashier is so slow, I could do a better job than her.
Someone let you down!--He's always like that. I'm just sick and tired of putting up with him.
Someone's keeping you waiting!--Don't they know I don't have all day to wait for them?
There is a joke--well, it's not really a joke, more like a complaint disguised as a joke--that Singaporeans are the world's best complainers, and though I haven't traveled that much, I would say we definitely are qualified for the finals.
As is just about anyone.
We all know we shouldn't complain. We all (probably) know that as Christians, complaining reveals a lack of trust and contentment in God providing that really slow cashier, and that driver who seems to have anything else but a functioning brain--possibly a potato--on his shoulders.
We may not, however, as easily realize that complaining also reveals the innate pride within us. Our complains stem from a sense of entitlement, which in turn stems from our sinful ego, as the DiMarcos point out: 'Complaint simply elevates the one who complains, making that person the assayer of all goodness and the authority on all badness...Just remember that complaint is our crying out for heaven on earth combined with the assumption that we deserve it.' (Die Young, by Michael and Hayley DiMarco)
If that sounded shocking, there are unfortunately also other nasty things lurking in our motivations to complain, like laziness and cowardice, and even--wait for it--dishonesty. Instead of actively and honestly confronting the problem (usually a person), and accepting the risks and costs that come with trying to change anything, we resort to a sort of hypocrisy, finding a comfortably safe outlet for our outraged feelings by complaining to someone else. What we don't realize is that this safe outlet is also a useless outlet. It doesn't fix anything. The only thing it does is make us feel good in a sort of sick self-righteous way (when, if you think about it, we didn't do anything awesome--other than make someone look bad for giving us less than we think we deserve, of course.)
Oh and wait--it does do something, not to the problem, not to the person we're complaining about, but to the person quietly listening to our rant.
Complaining is not limited to the complainer alone. We think that our complaints bubble out of us like hot air, venting our frustrations, and then conveniently evaporate leaving no trace. Unfortunately, complaining, like toxic gas, stings the lungs of those breathing it in. If only we stopped to think about the people listening to us before we let loose a complaint. ('You know, I don't want to complain but--') Complaining has an inevitable ripple effect, starting with your listener. It breeds more of all the nasty things that started it. When someone complains to you, they are immediately giving you the choice to join in, inviting you to join in, in fact. We all know complaining isn't half so fun without company. So we are basically inciting discontent in other people, whether it already exists or not. We're not content with our own discontent, ironically--we have to go and make sure other people are equally unhappy about something, and if they're not, convince them to be so. This could possibly sound okay if we were going to then do something about it together, but oh no, that's too risky. We'll just stay in the corner and complain furtively to each other, and get someone else to join us...
If this sounds less than how a heart that has experienced grace should be responding to other people's need for grace--that's about right. If it sounds like a lousy way of resolving a problem, that's quite right too.
I took a good hard look at myself and saw to my disgust that despite my unusually blessed life, this is me. This arose, I found, largely from an unconscious assumption that when someone complains, as long as what they're complaining about has some grounds, I feel justified to join in too.
But really? I never stopped to examine how legit that assumption/reason actually is.
The next hardest thing after not being a complainer myself, is knowing how to respond when other people complain to me.
Do I just listen silently, if I agree? Do I defend the person or thing being complained about? Do I try to appease the complainer, or make excuses for the problem? It affects me, whether I actually open my mouth to join them or not, just as how I respond in turn affects them.
There are no excuses for me, both for the complaints I have made or encouraged in the past, and (which is more shameful) those in the future, even after writing this post. The flesh dies hard.
a quiet voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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