“I don’t want to complain, but…”
If you’ve ever heard anyone preface their complaint with that disclaimer, you probably realize that they do, in fact, want to complain. Some people just love to do it, every chance they get.
In fact, just scroll across any local community Facebook page and it appears that just about everyone wants to chime in with their complaint every chance they get. It may be about fireworks, bad food or service at restaurants, train delays, or any number of other topics (including politics, of course), but it seems that the only way some people are happy is if they have something to be unhappy about.
I have a theory, mostly from reading product reviews and comments sections and the aforementioned community pages. That theory is, most of the people who leave reviews or get on Facebook to complain are telling you far more about themselves than they are about the products or services or people they are complaining about. As in, they are pretty miserable people who always see the glass half full (or empty and shattered on the floor) and want to drag you into their misery.
I read about a man in the middle ages who became fed up with humanity and decided to spend the rest of his life in a monastery. The abbot warned him that he would have to take a vow of silence and live the rest of his life as a scribe, to which the man replied, “No problem. I’m sick of talking.”
Ten years went by, and the abbot called for the man. He told him that he was a model monk and perfect scribe, and that they were very happy to have him. As per their tradition, he was allowed to say two words. Asked if he had anything to say, the man nodded and said, “Food cold.”
The abbot sent him on his way. Ten years later, he was brought before the abbot again and once again told how pleased they were with his performance, and that he was again allowed two more words if he so chose. The man said, “Bed hard,” and was sent back to work.
Another ten years went by, and again the abbot sent for the man, telling him that he was the best monk they had ever had, and that he was allowed another two words. The man nodded and said, “I quit.”
To this the abbot replied in a disgusted tone, “Doesn’t surprise me. You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here.”
Just in case you didn’t get the memo, we as followers of Jesus are supposed to be different from the world, and one of the things that should set us apart the most is our refusal to join the chorus of complainers around us. The apostle Paul instructed the believers in Philippi to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Some translations use the specific word “complaining.” He goes on to say that in doing so we prove ourselves to be “blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shines as lights in the world.” (Phil. 2:14-15)
There’s that expression we keep reading about of late, just as Jesus called us to be “the light of the world.” But when we choose to grumble and complain, our light just hits the dimmer switch instead.
And that’s the reality about complaining: it’s a choice. If we do it. it’s because we want to. Contrary to popular belief, you can choose not to complain, regardless of your circumstances. Sometimes it’s still best to follow the old advice, “If you don’t have something good to say, say nothing at all.”
Let’s make the effort this week to not complain. I’ll pray that for you, as I hope you will for me, and we’ll watch the Lord shine His light through us. Have a blessed weekend. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.