Filing a Complaint
By Jeff Cranston
Complaining is a part of life for some people; for others, it’s a large part of life. We all struggle with it. Every one of us. We gripe about delayed flights and uncomfortable seats. We make calls in which we poor-mouth co-workers and competitors alike. We fuss about bad weather, politics, the economy, nosy in-laws, and pulled muscles. You’d think the world was ending.
Complaining is really awful, isn’t it? But let me ask you this: If complaining is awful, why is it so prevalent? It turns out that there is a growing body of research addressing complaining: what it is, and when and why it happens. According to author and psychologist Robert Biswas-Diener, writing in the magazine Psychology Today, there are three types of complaints and complainers.
First, there are people who never seem to be satisfied. These are known as chronic complainers. They have a tendency to ruminate on problems and to focus on setbacks over progress.
Second, there are people who choose to vent. When we vent, we are expressing emotional dissatisfaction. It turns out that people who vent have an agenda. They tend to be focused on themselves and their own—presumably negative—experience. By showing their anger, frustration or disappointment, they are soliciting attention from their confidantes, and they feel validated by receiving attention and sympathy.
Finally, there are those who engage in instrumental complaining. Instrumental complaining is all about solving problems. When you confront your spouse about overspending on the credit card, (which if you’ve been through one of LCC’s Financial Peace University sessions you know you shouldn’t even be touching!), that could be instrumental complaining. These people complain but with the hope of cooperation to create a plan for change.
So what does the Bible say about the subject of complaining? Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, writes: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:14) Grumbling is translated as complaining. It is the low-toned muttering we do against God and others that often takes place at an emotional level. It’s when we have a secret displeasure in the heart.
There is something awry about a Christ-follower who always seems to have a pessimistic outlook on life, or a contentious, restless demeanor. God doesn’t want His people to be whiners and complainers; He wants us to be joyful. By refraining from grumbling, complaining, and dissension, we prove ourselves, Paul says, to be blameless and innocent.
Are you a complainer? Does that describe you, your life, your attitude? I wonder if a secret video camera had zoomed in on you this past week, how much complaining would have been captured?
Are you a victim or a victor?
Are you whining or shining?
Do you complain or choose to be joyful in Jesus?
Are you turning people on to Jesus or turning them away from Jesus?
While we need to honestly face problems and difficulties, and not dismiss them with blind optimism, we need to be wary about becoming pessimistic complainers, whiny gossips, or promoters of dissension.
Jeff Cranston is lead pastor of LowCountry Community Church in Bluffton, S.C.