Yesterday I sent an email to someone that I don’t know very well. The tone in my head was playful and friendly, but as I was lying awake in bed last night, I realized that what I’d written could be read as whiny and complaining. Now, I don’t think I’m generally a very complainy kind of person. I have great appreciation for silver linings and I work hard to maintain an ‘attitude of gratitude’ – or as one of my favourite little people recently phrased it, “be thanky, not cranky”. But my email got me thinking: do I complain more than I think I do? Do I come across as whiny when I’m joking around with people? When I reprimand my children for complaining, do they think I’m being hypocritical? I certainly hold back a lot of complaining, which means I’m still doing it mentally. That may not affect other people, but it certainly damages me.
And so, as these thoughts danced around my mind, mingling with the verses from my daily Lent reading that I was also still trying to meditate on, I decided that I should give up complaining for Lent.
I do recognize that the thoughts we think with brilliant clarity at midnight sometimes don’t make any sense whatsoever when we try to rethink them come daylight, so I determined to hold off on making a solemn vow until I’d had some time to ponder it after a night’s sleep and a cup of coffee.
When I woke up this morning, I was somewhat appalled to find that winter had returned overnight and had no intentions of releasing its grip on us before March Break. It was a complaint waiting to happen! I shuffled down to my computer and turned it on (which I usually don’t do until after the kids leave for school) to see if buses were running. Before I even got to the school district web page, I discovered what had been going on in Japan while I slept. Suddenly OUR weather didn’t seem so bad. Certainly not worth whining about. I determined to not complain about winter!
Throughout the day, I debated with myself. Most people give up chocolate or coffee or red meat or alcohol or other such things for Lent, and they do it in the spirit of sacrifice and self-denial. Complaining doesn’t readily fit into that category. But as I thought about it more, I concluded that all of those typical sacrifices are things that aren’t really healthy for us in the first place, but they bring us a degree of satisfaction or pleasure. By giving up those things, we are choosing a longer-term healthy option over temporary satisfaction. Hmmm…maybe complaining fits after all.
I’m not going to over-spiritualize it. I know that the spiritual practice of Lent goes way deeper than denying oneself caffeine. But I think a conscientious choice to be grateful every time I feel like whining will be refreshing and cleansing – for me, if not for the people around me. And a more intentional attitude of gratitude will most definitely serve me well as I contemplate the sacrifice made for me on the cross.
Since we’re already a couple of days into Lent, I thought I should back-track a bit and apologize to the person I’d emailed yesterday. She very graciously told me that she’d read my words with a tone of playfulness and friendship, for which I was grateful. Now to joyfully explore all the ways that I can be grateful for one child being sick, one child being grounded, and one child potty-training with March Break upon us.