“Ugh, I don’t want that for dinner!”
“Are you serious?! I don’t want to go there!”
My two kids, sometimes referred to as Thing One and Thing Two, are wonderful little people. They often challenge me to be better, as a Christian, and as a husband and father. But recently I have noticed a growing behavior among them that has troubled me. They complain. At times, it seems they complain about something every hour. I mean, there were complaints about things when we were on vacation in the Bahamas. Really?! How could any person complain of anything while vacationing in a place called Paradise Island?! To hear that whining, complaining pitch in their voices (and you parents know what I mean) really frustrates me. This has led me to tackle this in a larger, broader context, rather than on each individual instance.
Complaining is by definition the expression of dissatisfaction or unhappiness with something. Do we experience things that can cause dissatisfaction or unhappiness? Of course, but complaining does not attempt to correct or resolve what is causing the dissatisfaction or unhappiness. Complaining is essentially pointless. It is also contagious. It can cause a person to begin to see only negative things rather than all the positive things in life that one should be thankful. This viewpoint can then be dangerous, as it leads to bitterness, envy, hate, and fighting.
So where do I start? Me? Just like with most problems, I typically look elsewhere before I look where I need to….in the mirror. I complain. I (probably, or if I am honest, likely) complain a lot. What do I have to complaint about? When I sit back and think about that question, the answer is simple. I mostly complain about little, unimportant things. For example, the kids making a mess of the house or car for the millionth time, or my dinner at a restaurant taking 10 minutes longer than expected, or a difficult situation at work. These things are minor, as well as fixable. We pick up the mess, the food is served a few minutes later (trust me, we are not starving), and we discuss and resolve the issue at work.
The Bible has many verses that denounce a complaining attitude, and Paul tells us in Philippians 2:14 to “do all things without grumbling.” Why does he have this strong stance against complaining? I think it’s due to his understanding of what will lead to joy and peace. He knew being content and thankful in all of life’s circumstances will direct one to a state of peace and rest.
We are headed to a special time of the year where we celebrate Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. Even during this season there will be moments of dissatisfaction (maybe annoying family members or burnt pecan pie, etc), and it may entice a few complaints. But I am hopeful that I will not see and focus on negative things, but instead will take note of the things to be thankful (such as having a loving family, and plenty of food to eat). And in doing so, I hope others, notably Thing One and Thing Two, grow in an attitude of Thanksgiving, and not Complaining.
Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.