Confessions of a Chronic Complainer

Susan Narjala   |   June 10, 2020 

When the IndiAanya editors posted the  'Month of No Complaining' challenge, I signed up without missing a beat.

After all, I’m a grateful person, I thought. I’m not a compulsive complainer, I thought. It can’t be THAT hard, I thought.

On completing a month of the experiment, let’s just say there was considerable dissonance between those thoughts and my real life.

The challenge began in May which, as you know, is one of the hottest months in India. We were stuck indoors because of the lockdown. Except for when we had to visit the hospital when my son fractured his finger. Grocery stores were anaemically stocked. There were no online deliveries. And this sounds terribly spoiled (and it is), there was no house help to assist with the incessant cleaning and unremitting food production.

So complain I did. I whined to the husband about the oppressive heat, the annoying mosquitoes, and my Amazon-less life. I complained that now that he was home he should spend more time with me, that the kids were just not listening to me, that my scale had a personal vendetta against me, that my productivity was dwindling, that I was exhausted . . .

Every now and then my conscience (and/or my tweenagers) reminded me of the no-complaining challenge. And I shushed them up because hey, I just needed to vent. It was perfectly reasonable, even warranted, under these circumstances. Right?

What was I supposed to do? Bottle up my feelings? C’mon everyone knows that you’ll end up with ulcers and, ultimately, a hefty bill from the psychiatrist if you cram it all in.

But even as I vented and whined, I realised something rather revelatory: complaining begets complaining.

It resulted in a chain reaction: The more I vented, the more I justified it, the more I excused it, the better I became at it. I was on my way to getting a Ph.D. in Whineology.

Yes, of course, it felt good. For a while, that is. Sooner or later, complaining stopped being even remotely cathartic. In fact, my complaints became an annoying refrain in our home.

My husband hadn’t signed up to be my shrink. My kids hadn’t volunteered to be my proverbial punching bags. My mom hadn’t agreed to be a phone counsellor.

But you know who has invited me to run to Him with my burdens? The Creator of the Universe – that’s who. He doesn’t expect you and me to suck it up and be stoic and self-possessed. In I Peter 5: 6-7, He invites us to humble ourselves before Him and to cast all our cares upon Him.

The first thing we do is to admit our absolute inadequacy to handle our trials on our own. The second thing is to hand over those burdens to Him. And, while the verses don’t explicitly mention it, the third thing is to trust Him with those burdens because He cares for us.

Of course, while we are invited to cast our cares on God, we aren't called to grumble against Him. The Israelites in the desert - the classic prototype of grumbling people - give us enough evidence that when we angrily shake our fists at God it is a grievous sin and there are serious consequences to that sort of disrespect and dishonour toward God.

Instead, God in His grace gives us the language of lament through which our protests can turn into praise.

Forty-two poignant Psalms of lament capture God’s “complaint policy” if you will. It includes: calling on Him, crying out to/ complaining to Him, confiding in Him, expressing confidence in Who He is, and confirming our praise of Him.

God knew we would face troubles in the world (yes, He knew about the pandemic and its fallout) and He knows that we need a way to pour out from our heavy hearts. In His grace, He doesn’t dismiss our complaining but calls us to Himself. In His grace He gives us the amazing faculty of prayer.

In the words of the hymn ‘What a Friend We have in Jesus,’ we can say with conviction:

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer

All these confessions and convictions beg the question: If the no-complaining challenge comes up again will I nail it? Will I quit complaining entirely? Will I let my hubby off the hook? Probably not. But I do know that I have a Faithful Friend, a Wonderful Counsellor, a God who sees, a God who inclines His ear toward me and who remembers that I am dust.

No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, may you and I cultivate such hearts of contentment in Him that our complaints are covered by the unbounded joy of being in His presence. 

 

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog, www.susannarjala.com

2 comments on “Confessions of a Chronic Complainer”

  1. Enjoyed reading your post! I have not had the courage to take up this challenge. Thank you for highlighting that God can turn our protests into praise!

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