The challenge of not complaining has gone way deeper than I’d initially thought it would. I’ve discovered that there are several levels to complaining, and the surface that I scratched in my previous post is very superficial indeed. And so, even though Lent is far from over, and I’m sure I have a whole lot more to learn, I thought I should share what God has been teaching me so far. I have three points (although they’re not alliterative, so it’s not a good Baptist sermon just yet).
1. Being a martyr about it completely defeats the purpose. People have been asking me how it’s going, and the temptation is always there (it’s there even as I type) to list all the things about which I have righteously not complained. It’s like saying to someone, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…” If you’re using that disclaimer, then whatever it is you’re about to say shouldn’t be said at all. Likewise, if I’m proud of myself for not complaining and tell people what I didn’t complain about, then I’ve completely negated the accomplishment!
2. Using false thankfulness to camouflage a complaint is still complaining. This is a tricky point for a “silver-lining” kind of person. I truly and desperately want to be honest in my thankfulness and to really find things to be thankful for in difficult situations. But oh how easy it is to blurt out “thankful” statements and expect people to read between the lines. Allow me to present a completely fictional example: Oh, I am so thankful that my absent-minded husband at least remembered one of the six things I asked him to get at the grocery store! That kind of statement is a complaint. And it’s so thinly-veiled, it’s indecent. My desire is to choose joy and spread joy, not to sow contempt with false words of gratitude.
3. It’s important to analyze and prioritize the things that actually need to be discussed with someone else. As much as I am still committed to a whine-free Lent, there are some difficult issues in my life that I need help with. So I need to continually ask myself, do I really need to share this with someone? How many people do I really need to share it with? How much detail do I need to share in order to get the help I need? Here’s a tricky one: Once I’ve shared the pertinent information, have I reached the point where I need to shut up and keep the rest to myself? And is it clear to me and the person I’m talking to that my purpose is not to complain but to move ahead in the situation with better information/strategies/encouragement after I’ve received the other person’s input?
Those are the things that I’ve been learning – or at least processed and labelled, as it’s not completely new information. It has also been fun to reaffirm how much more pleasant daily life is when I make a conscious choice to focus on the blessings instead of the trials.