I am going to ask some hard questions this morning, so if you aren't up to it, you might want to skip this one! First, let me just remind you of the fact that before I ask you these questions, I have had to ask myself. I survived! You probably will, too. So, here goes...
How many times do you find yourself telling of your own pain without ever once stopping to ask about another's? Have you ever been caught up in your own list of "disappointing moments", enumerating them one-by-one for another to hear, all the while oblivious to the fact the other may have their own recent disappointments? What about the times when all you could do was find fault with some person or idea, just ragging on and on about the "reasons why" the person is so "flawed" or the idea is so "dumb"? If you have ever been "caught" in any of these moments - as the one who has to listen to the "complaint", dear "complainer", you probably have no idea how the complaint affected the one who had to listen to it!
Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner. (James 5:9 MSG)
I don't exactly have the job of being in the "complaint" department at work, but a good portion of my job is spent trying to research complaints, resolve these frustrations, and just plain listen when another needs to "dump". It is sometimes the part of the job I least enjoy! I hear from physicians not pleased with the new regulations we have to follow - lodging their "laundry list" of reasons why it is "ludicrous" to expect physicians to do this or that. I hear from nursing staff dealing with demands up to their eyeballs and feeling like they will never be able to deliver the nursing care they gave "back in the day". I hear from patients who thought their experience in the hospital should have been different, expecting more of this or less of that. The "complaint" list could go on and on - there seems to be no shortage. But...the one type of complaint which is within my own control is the one that comes from my own heart, bubbling out of my own mouth!
Each of us has the power to control our complaint. Whenever we are complaining, we are really expressing some form of disappointment, resentment, or uneasiness with what has happened, or with what we perceive might happen. It is understandable - we need an outlet - it is not wise to bottle things up. Yet, it is the "outlet" we choose which determines the things which get set in motion as a result of our complaint!
I can choose to think through my "complaint" - the frustration, disappointment, uneasiness I feel. In this "processing moment", I have learned to do a couple of things. I hope they might just help some who struggle with this tendency to complain first and process later:
* Use some techniques such as writing out the pros and cons of the issue you find fault with, or perhaps taking a few moments just to pen your thoughts, bringing a little clarity into the moment of emotion when you'd like to nothing more than rant on in some complaint. Sometimes we just need to "clarify" the issue - weighing the "resistance" (cons) against the "expectations" (pros). There is often nothing more revealing than asking yourself why it is you are resisting this expectation so much - what is it about the change which threatens you, causes you discomfort? Sometimes we find the real "resistance" is not because the expectation is unrealistic, but it is because we feel inadequate to meet the expectation. When we come to a place of seeing the "root" of the resistance, we often don't get to the place of allowing the complaint to surface.
* In examining the issues at hand, it is best to take some time to respond. Some may see this as engaging in confrontation avoidance, but I don't always think this is a bad thing. There is some wisdom in taking time to cool down. We often see the most clearly when our vision is not clouded with the "steam" of our emotions!
* Recognize disappointment for what it is - an obstacle which presents a new set of opportunities. This may seem a little too "upbeat" for those who have a propensity toward complaining. Yet, it is true. People don't set out to disappoint you! They don't wake up one day and determine to find ways to put obstacles in your path - those obstacles come because others are human, too. Disappointment has many paths - some go toward forming resentment and hatred (the worst form of complaint we can form), or toward resolution and restoration (the best form of complaint we can engage in). There is really no middle ground with disappointment - you either deal with it or you don't. If you don't, it will eventually come around again and again. One day, you will find the small disappointment of today becomes the huge "complaint" of tomorrow. Obstacles can be opportunities - but it is only when we are willing to go through the steps of "processing" the "obstacle" that the opportunities become apparent.
Not rocket science here, folks, but it is true. We jump to complaining much quicker than we ought - because we find release in the complaining. The sad fact - we solve NOTHING in the complaining - we usually just make the issue worse! If not for another, at least for ourselves, because we now have told ourselves an even BIGGER story about what it is we find fault with! We need to learn to "rewrite" our stories - to take time to process the best ending. In so doing, we will find our relationships stronger, our emotions evener, and ourselves out of the lime-light of other's complaint sessions! Just sayin!