Raise your hand if you love to hear your kids whine.
Ah, yes, there’s nothing like coming home after a hard day’s work to the melodious sound of whining. “We’re having THAT for dinner? We always have stuff I hate!” “Why do I have to do chores? No one else does!” “I’m booooooorrrrreeeeeddddd.”
I’m fairly certain there’s not a person on the planet who likes to hear whining. But, let’s be honest, whining isn’t something we outgrow. We all have our moments; some of us have more moments than others.
We rename whining when we become adults. We call it “venting,” “discussing,” “asking for advice,” or “sharing on Facebook.” But it’s whining. And it’s bad for us.
Complaining is contentment’s archenemy. It’s impossible to wallow in complaints and be content at the same time. But life presents us with a conundrum: Life is hard. Days are long. Irritations abound. We could adopt a Pollyanna pose: “Everything is wonderful always!” There are some who have sunny dispositions and they are, in their deepest souls, optimists. But what about the rest of us? How can we combat whininess in our own lives?
Scripture, after all, is pretty plain. We SHOULD learn to live without complaining.
“Do all things without complaining and disputing,
that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God
without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
Practically speaking, that is extraordinarily difficult. Society has a pretty high tolerance for adult whining- it is socially acceptable, even expected, to complain at least a little every day. Any person who decides to follow a path of joyful, contented speech is going against the flow.
I think, though, that it’s worth it. The Bible tells us that we speak the things that are in our hearts (Matthew 12:34), and I’ve observed that the reverse is also true. The things I speak influence the attitude of my heart. I am not, however, in favor of just randomly saying positive things that are trite or untrue. This is not an exercise in cheerleading and self-esteem.
The cure for grumbling, quite simply, is gratitude.
When I feel a complaint coming on, I have to quickly find something, anything, that I’m truly grateful for. I do not usually feel thankful for the thing that triggered my whininess. But if I shift my focus, I can put my complaints in proper perspective.
I HATE waiting in line. I really do. And I hate inefficiency even more. When I’m stuck in line, I should, perhaps say, “Thank you that I am waiting in line.” But that would be utterly false. Instead, I focus on what I am thankful for: that food is readily available to buy, that I’m not pressed for time, that I wore comfortable shoes, that the line will eventually end.
I try to be specific in my gratitude. I find that works better than using broad generalizations. Yes, I’m thankful for salvation. Yes, I’m thankful for the Bible. Yes, I’m thankful for air to breathe. But getting my mind out of a grouchy, grumbling mode requires me to think about something more precise. I need to make myself focus on blessings that my complaints are obscuring from view.
The contented life is a journey, and changing grumbling to gratitude is part of the trip. It doesn’t come easily. I indulge in whine each day, but every time I conquer it, discontent loses a bit of its grip on me. For every thankful thought, I move a little further down the path. And I’m convinced the journey is worth the effort. Give up the whine, and be grateful.
“In everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18