Complaining

I don’t want to write.  I certainly don’t want to write anything encouraging or uplifting.  Really–I think I just want to complain.

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

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8 Responses to “Complaining”

  1. rikkiApril 18, 2011 at 9:16 am #

    i struggle with this too, sheryl. i mean, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” sometimes…like in your computer situation. sometimes people just don’t hear you unless you’re squeaky. but i don’t think it’s wrong to speak up firmly when you need something…that could be different from complaining or whining. but in some situations (like your example about your hair), i fear people might think less of me or be annoyed by me if i speak up. it’s not really about getting my needs met or speaking up for something that isn’t fair, it’s about me not wanting to feel like a loser in front of them (though i’ll walk around with a bad hairstyle feeling like a loser anyway.) i think there is a line you have to draw for yourself and see which side your on in each situation. am i being demanding or annoying out of my own pride, or am i trying to be responsible in the situation to get what i need/paid for. not easy for my personality type, but important for my self respect!

  2. SherylApril 18, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    I think your questions for testing the situation are good ones, Rikki! Now to keep them in mind . . . I love what you said about feeling like a loser no matter what. My rationale would be that at least walking around feeling like a loser I’m not verbally reinforcing it. It’s not great thinking, I know. Thanks for sharing this journey with me.

  3. AimeeApril 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    It’s really REALLY easy as a mom to overstep the bounds between “reminding” and “nagging”, “instructing” and “commanding”, “challenging” and getting “frustrated”. The other day it seemed that I was meeting resistance in the kids in response to everything I said. My responses were less-than-spiritual. At the end of the day, completely emotionally drained, I started crying. Elijah, 4, asks why. “Well, it seemed to me like the kids were just mad at me all day! And it makes me sad.” I answered. “Well,” he answered innocently, “you were mad at us all day!” Definitely made me stop and think what the day would have been like if I had been able to meet their resistance with love and patience, instead of annoyance and even anger. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end- they are new every morning! Great is Thy faithfulness!”

  4. SherylApril 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    What a perceptive little guy! It’s so tough to meet resistance of any kind with patience and kindness–especially if you know you’re in the right. May you find wisdom and grace to say the words your kids need, Aimee.

  5. RachelApril 18, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    Thanks for your comments on my blog, Miss O! Nice to “see” you online! What you said about making your needs known in a way that is a gift is such a helpful way to think about communicating… because the only alternatives are shutting people out or complaining. And neither of those honor God or help others.

  6. ShelleyApril 19, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    I have the answer! I just posted this on Sarah R’s blog to you but will do so again to make sure you see it. Magnum Bars are now available in CO. Yes, make that need known and go straight to the nearest King Soopers/Safeway.

    On a more serious note — good reflection above in your blog. I am catching up on blog reading during free time in Lisbon this afternoon. Pouring the rain outside! All relative, right?

  7. SherylApril 19, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    Rachel! I love having more ways to connect with you. 🙂 It’s certainly a challenge to make my words a gift. Let me know if you come up with any special ways of doing it.

  8. SherylApril 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

    Magnum bars in CO?!?!?! This must be the true antidote to complaining. Stick a magnum bar in your mouth and there will only be happy sounds that emanate! 🙂 Thanks for the news. My thighs may never be the same.

    Hooray for a down day to catch up on blog reading. Of course it’s probably not the way you want to spend your time in a new place, but it’s at least the silver lining. I’ve missed you, Shelley!

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