Complaining is negative, unproductive and habit forming


Faith & Reflection

When things go wrong, how do you respond? By complaining? A natural reaction for all of us, at least occasionally. I’ve never liked complaining (my own or that of others) but like everyone, I do it from time to time. Warning! Everyone who complains regularly becomes proficient at it. Perhaps we can learn from the example of the man in the following anecdote.

A cowboy was travelling down a dirt road with his dog in the back of the truck and his horse in a trailer behind. He failed to negotiate a curve and had a terrible accident. A highway patrolman discovered the accident and stopped to help. He saw the horse first. It was seriously injured, so he drew his service revolver and put the animal out of his misery. He walked past the trailer and found the dog, also hurt critically and whimpering in pain. He ended the dog’s suffering as well. Next he found the cowboy fl at on his back in the ditch. He had multiple fractures and was unable to move. The officer came nearer and asked, “Are you okay?” The cowboy took one look at the smoking revolver in his hand and quickly replied, “Never felt better!”

Complaining is negative, unproductive and habit forming. Negative, because it is based upon a non-acceptance of our circumstances. Complaining clearly indicates that circumstances have got the best of us. It is a verbal admission of personal defeat.

Complaining reveals an unthankful, disobedient, perhaps even bitter attitude. The Israelites consistently complained during their wilderness wanderings. Psalm 106:25 says, “They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the LORD.” Complaining is unproductive because not only doesn’t it change anything, but it takes up precious time and energy that could be employed in problem solving.

The practice of complaining is habit forming. It focuses on self and this is one of humanities fundamental and perennial problems. Over the course of time those who make grumbling a way of life will see friends and acquaintances begin to withdraw. The weightiness of having to listen to a practiced whiner is too much for even a good friend to bear.

There is good news though… complaining has a simple, immediate and 100% effective cure. It is being thankful! Complaining, bitterness, whining and grumbling cannot coexist where there is joy and the giving of thanks. One of them will have to go! I occasionally tell people, “Read 2 Psalms and call me in the morning”. They tell me it works!

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).

— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church