Complaining

I subscribe to Cindy Rollins’s Delicious bookmarks, and for some reason the feed burped up a bunch of year-old stuff this morning, some of which I hadn’t seen. I especially liked this post where the writer celebrates his grandmother for her utterly uncomplaining attitude.

My wife’s grandmother has long been a model for me. Actually, this lady had many qualities to admire, but there is one in particular that was a stand-out: the woman never complained. She liked everything.

I don’t like everything—far from it—and I suspect this woman didn’t really like everything either. But I do believe that she never complained. I know people who never complain, and I admire them. I even know a few who can get an undesirable situation changed for the better without complaining, and I admire them greatly.

I avoid complaining because it cultivates some attitudes in me that are not healthy. It focuses my attention on me. It encourages me to think that my needs and desires trump those of others, when in fact they usually don’t (Phil. 2:3). It suggests not just that something needs to be fixed—otherwise the problem could just be pointed out—but that justice requires the problem be fixed. It irritates other people, and to the extent that people address my complaints it is usually to make the irritation go away, not to put the situation right.

I don’t think it’s good to like everything. But I do think it’s good to take yourself out of the equation. Whenever I encounter a circumstance that is wrong to me in any way, I ask myself “Can I work with this?” The answer—whether I like it or not—is always “Yes.” I can always find a way to salvage the situation, to redeem the time, to turn lemons into lemonade, or at least to practice contentment in all circumstances.

Perhaps a situation would have been better if they had turned out just as I like them. But things are always worse when I make sure everyone understands that things don’t measure up to my standards. Better to remind myself, “I can work with this,” do what I can to improve them, and be content with the outcome.

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3 thoughts on “Complaining

  1. I am not a complainer, but do have a terrible urge to point out what is wrong with how I see things being done. Is there some balance point here as we raise our children, between not saying something in public, only at home, or not at all? On the other side of the picture here, it feels like I am endorsing something that I don’t , if I say nothing to my children.

  2. Angela,

    I think it is (a) good to be discerning, (b) good to teach your children to be discerning, and (b) good to be discreet about sharing what you’ve discerned with others.

    I will share critical judgments with my children, not so that they will blindly adopt them but so that they can see what I think and how I think. They are free to reach their own conclusions, and to share them with me or not. But I put even more emphasis on teaching them to reach those conclusions with love and understanding, and to be tactful about spreading them abroad.

    Cindy has written another good post just today that quotes Charlotte Mason on exactly this question.

    How necessary then that a child should be instructed to understand the limitations of his own reason, so that he will not confound logical demonstration with eternal truth, and will know the important thing to him is the ideas he permits himself to entertain, and not by any means the conclusions he draws from these ideas, because the latter are evolved. [Emphasis added]

    In other words hold you convictions lightly, knowing that your ability to reason them out is limited, and never confuse them with the truth.

  3. Excellent post, Rick!

    I think “Can I work with this?” might need to become my mantra for a while. Oh, for the wisdom to take myself out of the equation and rightly embrace each circumstance God has given me to work with for His glory.

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