I’ve been trying to teach her just to say, “No, thank you.”
It’s simple. It’s polite.
Really, I don’t need an Oscar-worthy performance every time I serve mashed potatoes.
“EEEEEWWWWWW. I HATE potatoes. They are GROSS. This is DISGUSTING. Don’t put ANY on MYYYY plate!”
I’m beginning to wonder if the child has ever even eaten a single potato. I have this sneaking suspicion that she just screams about hating potatoes because she’s decided to hate potatoes and because the rest of the family happily eats them.
The complaints are always prolonged, noisy, and accompanied by a pantomime of a wrinkled nose and contorted face. When she’s really inspired, she might even gag a little. Just for effect.
I’ve gone the spiritual route with her. “Do everything without complaining and arguing,” I quote (Phil 2:14 NLT).
Eat potatoes without the side show?
Yes. Or at the very least, give a simple “no, thank you,” as you pass the potatoes on to the next person.
So far, that has been unsuccessful.
So, I tried the empathy route.
How would it feel if you shared something you made and people publicly whined and complained for at least 5 minutes about how terrible it was?
The empathy route isn’t working either. Lately, she’s taken to shrugging her shoulders and lying to my face: “I wouldn’t care. My feelings don’t get hurt like that.”
But the spiritual route and the empathetic route work for me. Her mealtime complaint festivals make me realize just how grating and ungrateful whining really is.
And unfortunately, I’ve been thinking about how often I’m the one doing the complaining.
We all have our weaknesses, the things that set us off and the people who get stuck listening to us complain.
You can ask my husband to be sure, but I don’t think I’m a complaining wife, per se. It’s not really like me to nag or pester or pick him apart and I don’t really complain about him.
But it might be to him.
And it’s usually about truly annoying things:
Like the dentist’s office forgetting to send reminder cards out about our appointments so I completely forgot when I had to drop everything else in my insanely busy schedule to get my teeth picked at by sharp metal objects.
Like our house phone and Internet connection constantly cutting out on me at the most inconvenient times.
Or the store not keeping their shelves stocked so week after week after week I go to buy what I need and it’s not there AGAIN and how hard is it anyway to order more of something when the shelf is empty for goodness sake?!
Things like that.
Too often, though, we’re fooled into thinking that as long as our complaints are justified, then they’re allowed. Or that “venting” is acceptable, even if it involves calling friend after friend not for wisdom or prayer, but so they can fuel our anger and annoyance.
It’s complaining, but it’s justified complaining. That’s how we explain it.
Yet, when I’m being honest, I have to confess that if I’m continually complaining …then I’m a complainer.
And when we think about the negative and talk about the negative, pretty soon all we can see is the negative…in people, in life, in situations.
God knows that sometimes life is painful. We’re not always complaining about grocery store shelf-stocking policies or bad drivers. Sometimes our hearts are filled with deeply painful disappointment, even betrayal.
And He’s not asking us to fake it or shrug it off our shoulders and paste on happy-faced masks.
But he does ask that we bring it to Him.
Like David, we don’t complain about everything and we don’t complain to everyone around us. Instead, we drag that cumbersome burden of cares and troubles to the feet of the only One who can carry it for us:
Maybe we need a trusted friend or counselor (or husband) at times to listen well, but “they should not be where we go first” (Linda Dillow, What’s It Like to Be Married to Me?)
We run to God before any other, and even when we bring these needs to Him, C.H. Spurgeon reminds us:
We do not show our trouble to the Lord that He may see it, but that we may see Him. It is for our relief and not for His information, that we make plain statements concerning our troubles.
When I’m complaining, is it just to be heard? Or is it so I can see God more clearly in my circumstances?
I can’t truly say that all my complaining is an invitation for God to show me His glory,
But, oh Lord, may it be so today.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2013 Heather King