Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

02 May 2014

Things I've been working on #1 - Complaining

I've been thinking about complaining.  But you'll be glad to know that I'm not going to do it here... because I've already done it elsewhere.

CONVERSATION # 1...
was with my neighbour earlier in the year.  He commented that he hadn't seen me in a while and off I went in a flurry of arm-waving comedy, describing how busy I'd been doing this, that and t'other.  It was funny enough.  Quite theatrical really.  But I walked away from the conversation disgusted with myself, conscious of the fact that most of our conversations together seem to go like that.  He must think I'm a real whinger.

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like starts in the universe as you hold out the word of life...
Philippians 2:14-16a

I think there may be three layers of complaining.  The first layer is the out and out whinging, whining and complaining.  The second is less obvious - the complaining veiled in some other guise such as humour.  The listener is spared of the whining, but behind the veil is the backstory of moaning and groaning.  And then there's the third layer that doesn't see the verbal light of day, but stays inside the heart, festering away - and it ought to be dealt with so that it doesn't give rise to bitterness.  Because bitterness has the bad habit of bursting out in all sorts of unpleasant, unfriendly and ungodly ways.

CONVERSATION # 2...
was with a dear godly and gracious friend.  I cannot recall hearing her complain ever.  She is one of those wonderful "when I grow up I want to be like her" souls.  We met one morning a while ago and talked about how life has been and for her, the last six to twelve months have been difficult.  What I heard from our conversation was my friend telling me how life had been.  Yet as our time finished she said, somewhat disappointed in herself, that she had prayed she wouldn't have a complaining spirit during our time together, the implication being that she felt she had complained her way through our morning together. 

It's good not to complain.  Listening to a steady stream of complaining can be agonising.  But somewhere, just somewhere, there has to be a space to say it as it is.  If life is difficult then life is difficult.  To say otherwise is to lie.  There has to be a place where friends who know and love one another can share about the hard things of life and where it isn't heard as complaining but as sharing.

"Do everything without complaining or arguing" is not about being shiny all the time.  There is a space to say it as it is.  So I look to my friend of conversation # 2 who is my benchmark of non-complaining and this is how I see her sharing in a real way that doesn't cross the line to complaining. 

The mechanics:
tone of voice and
body language (no dramatic hand to forehead, arm waving, rolling of eyes or frowny face.)

Then a bit deeper:
choice of words (words that honour the parties involved and moreover, honour God),
quickness of mind (to stop short the tendency to whinge in its tracks when it seeps out) and
choice of audience  (comfort in, dump out works well here, because the space to share the hard things of life is not universal.)

And at its deepest:
prayerful resolve to not complain and
an abiding joy in the Lord sitting at the foundation of whatever life throws at us.  Having a real and mature trust in God and hope of eternal life with Him, front and centre, helps to temper speech and conduct in all circumstances.   

Two other incidentals of complaining that cross my mind, because I have been thinking about this a lot lately...

1.  Complaining is sometimes just a habit.  And then the habit becomes the default position.  But it doesn't have to be like that.

2.  I think I need to be careful about the sorts of questions I ask when chatting with friends.  It is quite easy to ask a question that invites a complaining response.  It is possible to phrase a question in a way that invites a godly response rather than an opportunity to whine and if I ask poor questions I don't serve my brother or sister well. 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 
Ephesians 4:29


6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I find this "It is possible to phrase a question in a way that invites a godly response rather than an opportunity to whine and if I ask poor questions I don't serve my brother or sister well." really interesting, especially when in conversations I'm trying to bring the topics away from just superficial things. Could you possibly give an example of maybe a question phrased that wouldn't invite a godly response compared to a question which would? I'm struggling to think of things that don't sound odd or cheesy..

Thank you,
Ellie

Stephanie said...

Thankyou...a timely reminder for me.

Meredith said...

Hi Ellie. Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment. That is a good question. How to ask the good questions. I have been thinking over this myself of course. It is complex and the answer is going to longer than a quick sentence or two. Can I get back to you on this - I promise I will - but I am just a little pushed for time just at the moment.

And hello there Steph. I certainly needed the reminder, which is why I have been thinking about these things for the last couple of months. I'm glad you were encouraged. By the way, when I grow up, you are another one I would like to be like.
Mx

Anonymous said...

Like the first poster, I'd love some examples on how I can helpfully steer conversations with friends. A thoughtful and well written article.

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course!

Thank you :)

Ellie x

Meredith said...

Looks like a follow up post might be in order. Coming up as soon as I can.
Mx