About Complaining – from www.gotquestions.org:
How Can I Tell If What I Want to Say Is Complaining or Informing?
Complaining is primarily about focusing on the negative about circumstances, people, or perceived negatives about God. It is about communicating a lack of gratitude and a lack of faith in the Lord. A complainer is not looking for solutions, but just wants to spread negativity and discontent. The information shared is not something that the hearers need – or want – to know. And, sadly, a complaining spirit is very contagious.
Informing is primarily about sharing important information that the other person needs to know. We may need to share our desires about certain things. We need to share if we are physically, emotionally, or spiritually so unwell that we need help from a specific person. And we need to share, with the right people, if someone else is not okay and he/she needs help.
From four of my wonderful readers (shared with their permission):
- I think complaining assigns blame, seeks sympathy and usually doesn’t solve anything. The hearer may not need the information at all. Informing seeks solutions and is intended to benefit the hearer by giving them needed information.
- I look at this way, “First, can it change?” If it can, “does it need to?” And then, “how can I say it in such a way that isnt received as competition?” A lot of concerns come out as “I’m better than you.” Or “At least I do the dishes” when in reality we just want to be appreciated and have our concerns heard.
- I think it’s all wrapped in the words you use. Instead of saying, “Why do “you” always leave the toilet seat up after “you” go?” The better approach would be, “Honey, guess what almost happened to me last night, I almost sat right down into the toilet “… then ask can we work together to think of a way we could possibly remember to put the seat back down? (This has actually happened to me long ago.) When I made “you” statements, it was complaining. When I made the “we” statements, it included us as a couple/team. Working together for our good. My husband didn’t want me to fall or get wet. It was just a habit he had. Talking and agreeing on a problem brings resolve. Not pent up frustration that steams and brews until it becomes a screaming match. Love isn’t like that. Moral of my story: We agreed to put both the seat and the lid down after using the toilet. Happy endings prevail where love abounds!!????
- This scripture impacted me recently. Both complaining about OR withholding the truth of what is going on in our lives can be detrimental. If speaking the truth of our circumstances could lead others to eventually rejoice in God’s deliverance, then it is worth telling. Here, Paul is neither complaining nor withholding:
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 ESV
I think it is helpful to look at my heart, motives, and scripture as I try to decide if what I want to share is complaining or informing.
- Am I saying negative things about God, assuming He has evil motives or speaking wrongly about His good character?
- Am I condemning other people or highlighting their sins to people who aren’t involved and who don’t need to know?
- Am I walking in a lack of gratitude?
- How often do I talk about the problem? Is it a continual habit?
- Am I gossipping? Meaning, am I sharing negative information about others in order to make others thing poorly of someone else or to try to make myself look better than someone else?
- Do I tell lots of people, even those who can’t do anything to help the situation?
- Is this simply an annoyance that I could/should overlook?
- Am I focused on my own personal preferences/comfort more than biblical principals/God’s glory?
- Am I trying to control something that is not in the realm of my responsibilities?
- Is this something I need to accept and invite God to use it to change me? What if this trial is an answer to my prayers to help me grow spiritually? Or is it something I have a responsibility to change?
- Am I encouraging others to complain, to be afraid, to not trust God, or to be upset?
- Am I attacking or criticizing others?
- Am I looking for genuine help and resolution of the problem, or do I just want attention and sympathy?
- Are my motives wrong? Do my words spring from envy, sinful jealousy, selfishness, self-righteousness, gossip, pride, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred, malice, idolatry of someone/something (codependency), fault-finding, a critical spirit, perfectionism, people pleasing, playing the martyr, fear, a desire to control, assuming the worst motives of others or God, unbelief in God/lack of faith, etc…?
- What is my goal? Am I trying to resolve something that is resolvable? Or do I just want to say negative things just to say them – and I am not really looking for a solution?
- Do I simply want to make my needs known to God and – in faith – ask for His help and provision?
- Do I have a legitimate need or problem and am I looking to the person (or people) who can truly help me?
- Am I seeking only to tell people who actually need to know about the situation?
- Is my problem a significant one that I can’t handle on my own?
- Am I asking for things or sharing my perspective or the information I want to share respectfully?
- Is the problem something that can change and that is my responsibility to try to change?
- How often am I talking about the problem? Just enough to tell the person who can help me?
- Is this issue something that grieves God’s heart and something God instructs me to attempt to correct?
- Are my motives right? Do I seek to get the problem fixed in a way that honors the Lord?
- Am I acting in divine (1 Cor. 13:4-8 style) love for God and for others?
- Am I pointing others and myself to trust God, to love others, and to have greater faith?
- Will my sharing this information spur others on to greater faith in the Lord? Will it help them grow spiritually?
- Am I reverencing the Lord, respecting other people (my husband, my children, and others), and respecting myself in the situation?
Our pastor said something interesting yesterday,
“Lack of gratitude is the first step toward idolatry.”
Obviously, if we don’t trust and thank the Lord, we are going to look to other things to trust. We must guard our hearts carefully against this tendency, my precious sisters!
We need Your clear wisdom, guidance, Word, and Spirit to help us discern rightly in this – and every – area. Help us to see our motives clearly. Help us to long to honor You in our thoughts, attitudes, motives, words, and actions. Help us to receive Your Spirit’s power to walk in holiness because we can’t do this on our own. Change us, Lord! Make us more like Jesus.