Last summer, a stark reality hit me. I complain a lot. Wowwww, I complain a lot.
And, I didn’t like who I was when I complained. Ouch!
For me, it’s all too easy to justify complaining about things in this life. I complain when I’m frustrated with a situation that I don’t like—and sometimes can’t control. I complain when people do or say things that don’t make sense to me. I complain when something or someone annoys (or upsets) me. On any given day, it feels like there are a million and one scenarios to complain about—in my personal life and in society as a whole.
Can you relate?
Why is it good not to complain?
Again, I really didn’t like “complaining me.”
After some deep introspection, I was convicted that even the most “justifiable” of complaints were still hindering my life. Here’s why:
1. At its core, complaining is selfish
Harsh words, I know. But words I needed to hear!
My complaints are often focused on how much I feel wronged, as if everyone and everything exists to make me happy. So not true!
And, it’s hard to complain without judging other people. This is what the Bible says about judging others:
1 “Don’t judge others, and God will not judge you. 2 If you judge others, you will be judged the same way you judge them. God will treat you the same way you treat others.
3 “Why do you notice the small piece of dust that is in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood that is in your own? 4 Why do you say to your friend, ‘Let me take that piece of dust out of your eye’? Look at yourself first! You still have that big piece of wood in your own eye. 5 You are a hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to get the dust out of your friend’s eye.”Matthew 7:1-5 (ERV)
That’s not to say that my feelings and my frustrations aren’t valid. Or, that someone wronging me is right. But there’s a difference between complaining simply to complain, and sharing about a challenge I’m not sure how to handle to gather advice or support.
Complaining says: I need justification that I’m right. That’s pride.
Sharing the details of a situation to seek or speak truth is humility.
Personally, I need to do more of the latter.
2. Complaining compounds the negative
It’s safe to say that no one complains about something positive, right?
Complaining is focusing on the negative and continuing to make it negative.
I used to think of myself as an optimistic, positive person. Yet, how can that be true when I complain? For me, this is a serious heart check matter.
Do I want to live my life dwelling on negative things by continuously complaining about them? Or, do I want to live with a positive focus?
Looking at it from that perspective, I absolutely want to live an optimistic life. Not only that, I know God wants that for me, too. Philippians 4:8 (NIV) is evidence of this, with Paul giving this message to the early Christian church at Philippi:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
And, Proverbs 4:23 (ERV) warns, “Above all, be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life.”
Yikes! This convicts me every time I find myself in a cycle of complaining.
3. Complaining doesn’t help the situation
I admit. Complaining feels great in the moment. That release of emotion. That feeling of justification for voicing injustice. And, if I’m being honest, that (sometimes) prideful moment of pointing a finger at someone else.
But, that moment doesn’t last. Complaining doesn’t resolve or change anything. It doesn’t magically give you answers. Complaining won’t make the complaint go away.
Plus, some things I complain about I have zero control over.
So, I have to ask myself, what’s the point? What am I trying to achieve by complaining?
The only answer I have is that it gives me a false and instant sense of justice—which is absurdly meaningless.
Now, I want to note again, I’m not talking about voicing facts about a situation to obtain advice or support. That can be helpful and fruitful and necessary. No, I’m talking about your everyday, woe-is-me complaining.
And, I’m talking to myself.
How to stop complaining
Back to last summer when I realized I have a complaining problem.
I knew something needed to change—but also that lasting change takes time and consistent practice—so, I challenged myself.
Whenever I catch myself complaining (or wanting to complain), I need to pray about that situation—or for that person.
I wish I could tell you that after months and months of working on this, I have officially stopped complaining. Not so! I am still very much a work in progress as I type this. However, I am learning and growing, and that is what I want to focus on.
Do I still complain… too often? Yes. Yes, I do.
Do I catch myself complaining sooner than I used to? Yes! I’m making progress.
More and more often, I catch myself in the act of complaining, but certainly not always. Sometimes, it’s 10 minutes later. Or, hours later. Or, right before bed if I’m talking to God. Sometimes, I don’t catch it till the next morning when I’m reading the Bible and praying. But, I’ll take that progress because I know that even being aware and taking action after I complain is a step of growth.
It also leads me to pray more often—about more things—which is always a good idea.
In fact, I find that when I stop complaining and pray, not only do I feel more peace about the situation and more trust in God, but I also feel a little more free and a little less weighed down by the negative things in my day. That’s God’s peace.
“6 Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. 7 And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds.”Philippians 4:6-7 (ERV)
You are not alone
Friend, if you’re reading this and feel convicted about complaining, you are not alone. I’m fighting the battle of complaining right here, right now. Right along with you.
So, I challenge you to evaluate your own life. Ask God to make you more aware of the times you complain purely for complaint’s sake and not to seek help.
And when you do complain—or feel like complaining—choose to pray instead.
What to pray when you complain
Pray about the situation. Give it to God. Ask Him to give you clarity. Ask Him to give you patience. Ask Him for peace. Whatever you need to combat what you’re feeling.
Pray for the person. Who are you complaining about? They probably need your prayer. Maybe they need Jesus. Maybe they need wisdom. Maybe hope. Or, more positivity in their own life. If you know the person personally, as God how you can help them in this situation.
Pray for your mind. Pray that the Holy Spirit will poke you when your thoughts even start to move toward a complaint. Pray for the ability to catch it before it starts and truly pray instead of complain.
Friend, that’s the goal—pray instead of complain. Often, for me, it’s still complain and then pray. Some form of complaint comes out and then I pray. I’m working on it, and I pray that you will, too—if complaining is something you struggle with.
We all know the world—and our own lives—could use a lot more positivity. Less complaining and more praying are two keys to making that happen!