When I wrote the post last week about whining, I realized that there are so many aspects to whining that I hadn't covered. It’s not enough just to enact a Pollyanna solution. (For the record, though, her solution- find something to be thankful for- wasn't really all that bad.) Gratitude is a great practice, but sometimes, we need more than that long-term. If we want to grow in our lives, we shouldn't just stuff complaints and pretend like all’s well when it isn't. We need to learn to listen to our inner “whiny voice.” If we feel like whining, we need to stop and consider why. Is there a problem that should be fixed? Is there a change that we need to make? Is the Lord trying to teach us something?
Sometimes, our complaints have a theme: job responsibilities, conflicts with others, a packed schedule. If we can dig a little deeper, we might find that there are things that we can change. Change, though, is hard. Whining is easy. That’s why whining becomes a trap. It keeps us from actually taking action. We keep doing the same things over and over again, complain about how things are, and then go back to doing the same things. We’re trapped in a never-ending cycle.
The first step in breaking the cycle is taking responsibility. A lot of the things I whine about, I brought on myself. 8 AM basketball game the morning after 8 PM gym practice? Whose signature is that at the bottom of the basketball sign up form? Ah, Aimee Bain. (Perhaps they should put a “no whining” clause in the release form: “I, the parent of above listed participant, recognize that only I am responsible for the stress that this season is going to create.” And, yes, I’ll probably sign them up again next year.) If we take responsibility for the decisions we've made, then we can decide whether or not to change the situation or just live with it for the time being.
Often, we feel overwhelmed because we've over-committed. We’re able to get everything done, but at the expense of our health and energy. Once I've made a commitment, even a small one, I do my best to fulfill it. It’s awfully hard on the people around me if I back out because I suddenly realize I shouldn't have committed to begin with. If you’re finding yourself in a situation (job, friendship, volunteer work) that is different than you had envisioned, it’s not always wise to simply throw in the towel just because it now seems inconvenient. We need to “consider one another as more important” than ourselves. But how can we get through it without whining? Make note and learn lessons for the future. Turn that energy into saying “next time, I will make a different decision.” And then change whatever small things you can to make life smoother in the meantime. Persevering when things get difficult will make you stronger, and knowing that the future can be different makes the present seem less crushing.
Another step in breaking the whining cycle is surrounding ourselves with overcomers. These are the people who whine the least, not because they have no difficulties, but because they know that although life can be brutal, God is abundantly gracious. They can encourage those around them because they find their strength in the Lord. These overcomers aren't pie-in-the-sky idealists, they’re realists. They have faced difficulties and come through them (or are in the process of walking through them.)
And that is the third step in breaking the whining cycle: Be realistic. Let go of striving to find perfection- in yourself, in others, in situations. It’s a fallen world. While all Christians should be seeking to be more godly, expecting life on this earth to be perfect is a recipe for failure. In our current state, God uses all those imperfections to mold and shape us. If everything went exactly as we wished, we’d be little baby weaklings indeed.
The final and most important step is to take our whinings to the proper place. There is One who knows our every thought and looks with compassion on our frailty. We have to pray, honestly and frequently, and, like David, “pour out” our complaint before the Lord and “declare before Him” our trouble. Then, we can say,
“I cried out to You, O LORD:
I said, ‘You are my refuge…
The righteous shall surround me,
For You shall deal bountifully with me.’”
From Psalm 142