I just wrote and deleted three paragraphs of complaining. It’s not productive for me. It wastes your time. It’s just kind of pointless.
Not all criticism is pointless. There’s some that leads to good change, but constructive criticism and complaining aren’t necessarily synonymous. It’s hard to tell the difference much of the time. At least it is for me.
When I was teaching some of it was cut and dry. Constructive criticism was easier to identify. I don’t think too many of my students believed I complained when I corrected their grammar, criticized their word choices, or told them they had the order of Henry VIII’s wives wrong (so many C/Katherines of one sort or another!). It’s life outside of the strict confines of the classroom where things get fuzzy.
I don’t want to be a whiner and a complainer. I often adjust to avoid it. At a restaurant, I’ll do my best to enjoy food that isn’t the way I was sure I’d ordered it. It’s a dual thing—not wanting to complain and knowing there are plenty of people who would be glad to have what I’m deeming less than perfect. If a haircut is too short, I think, “It will grow and then we can try it again.” In December I thought I was getting my hair highlighted, and somehow it came out darker than it is without highlights. It took crying myself to sleep to decide to go back the next day and ask them to do it over. I didn’t want to be a whiny brat about it, but neither did I want to spend that much money for something that wasn’t right.
A few weeks ago I got my new laptop at work. Its arrival followed multiple blue screens of death on the laptop I had, multiple power outtages on one loaner and a few days on a third computer. The new machine finally came when I threatened to either cry or throw something out the window. (The tears were a much more substantial threat since my window is only a few feet off the ground and doesn’t open.) Why did it take so long to get my new laptop? I was told I hadn’t complained enough.
I’m not sure where that leaves me. I had a problem. I stated it multiple times. I went through appropriate channels multiple times. And it’s not just the computer. And it’s not just at the office. I know this is a tension residing within me many times. I struggle to know what’s complaining and what’s standing up for myself. I struggle to know how to apply Ephesians 4:29–“Watch the way you talk . . . Say only what helps, each word a gift.” (The Message)
Perhaps that’s the rub. I’m not always sure how to make my needs known in a helpful way, in a way that’s regarded as a gift by the hearer. I know this is an area I need to improve. I know I need to learn to differentiate between making my needs known in a way they’re heard and spouting about things that really can’t be changed—like Colorado’s landlockedness or lack of rain.
There’s a difference. I see it plainly when I write it here. I don’t always here the difference in my thoughts. Perhaps I need to write more.
Do you struggle with making your needs known? Do you stop yourself because you don’t want to complain? Do you have other issues of the heart and mouth that vex you?
photo courtesy of vierdrie