By Katie Bennett, Contributing Writer.
Are you a complainer? Don’t answer that yet.
Sometimes, this is more subtle that we realize.
A friend asks us how we’re doing, really. We don’t want to be “fake,” so we unload on her everything in our lives that’s not up to standard, and how put-out we feel by life’s injustices.
We offer multiple examples and elaborations to ensure the picture of our plight is fully painted, all the while casting frequent knowing glances between one another that seem to implore, “can I get an amen as to how bad and unfair this is?”
The milk spill in the van that’s now spoiling, the baby who’s not sleeping well, the potty-training child who’s having poppy-accidents in public places, the broken-down air conditioner, the husband who’s traveling for work, the child who’s up with sun, or earlier…
Relating what’s going on in our lives for a chuckle and to express trust in God is one thing. That’s good! We can and should share things in a way that point ourselves and others back to Jesus.
Relating what’s going on in our lives because it’s truly so heavy, we can’t bare the burden alone is good too. We should enter into hard places with one another.
But relating what’s going on in our lives to seek affirmation for our grumbling spirit is not good.
I call that complaining in the name of authenticity.
We think we’re being real. We think we’re letting people in to our lives. We think we’re justified to feel the way we do. We think our disappointments about our situation represent universal truths. We are just sure we know the way things should be, and when our lives don’t meet those expectations, we feel we have no choice but to be upset about it.
- Surely we deserve sleep? We used to get as much as we determined we wanted.
- Surely we deserve help around the house? We have friends whose husbands help them incessantly.
- Surely we deserve for our kids to clean up after themselves without prompting or training?
- Surely we deserve breaks, dates, “me time” and girls’ nights out?
We feel we deserve a neat, tidy, fun, entertaining and easy life.
I have fallen into this way of thinking far too many times over the past several years since becoming a mother and full-time homemaker. I have often even prefaced these complaints to friends with the words, “Not to complain, but…”
I knew better, but I didn’t have the self-control to refrain. I didn’t have the wisdom to choose another perspective.
As Gloria Furman so aptly puts it in her book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full,
“Simply airing these discouragements does not provoke in us a thrilling sense of hope in God. Plummeting headlong into disenfranchisement with God’s gifts is an incomplete and ultimately useless cure for the heart’s ills.”
We hold a deeply ingrained belief that things should be a certain way.
But why? On what authority to do we make these truth judgements? Why do we assume we know better than God, who has lovingly given us every trial so that we might learn to know, trust and love Him more and reflect the gospel to the world?
Philippians 2:14-15a says,
“Do everything without grumbling 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 stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
When fix our heart on heaven, and let our words flow from this eternal, trust-soaked perspective, we will be purified. It is then that we brightly reflect God’s grace to the world.
So how do we practice authenticity in relationships without complaining?
I believe you can and should share your life with friends! Especially the tough stuff. But I would also suggest, you should not say everything you think about your life situation. Take these thoughts and feelings to God first, and let Him mold and shape your outlook!
When you do share hard things, relate the need-to-know facts, and then spend your time talking about how you are struggling personally.
Many times, friends will invite you to complain at this point. They have good intentions. I have done this many times when others have shared tough things with me. They probably want to offer an empathetic ear, but make a decision in advance not to follow down this path. In this way, you will gently influence the culture of your friendship.
Rather, focus on your personal struggle, how you can trust and lean on God, and how He is calling you to take action. This is not being fake, this is being resolute and choosing to honor God with your words.
Don’t let complaining steal your joy, no matter how subtle it may be. Be grateful.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
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Would changing the way you speak add joy to your life?