A few years ago, I made a commitment to reduce the amount of complaining I do. I wish I could say that I did it after having an epiphany and realizing how blessed I am. What really happened is that my family and friends refused to listen to my constant whining. (I am a princess, after all. What do princesses do best? Whine.) My mother is an R.N. and counselor by trade, so she has to listen to people with problems all the time. It must have been so annoying for her to come home after 8 hours of helping people work through their issues and be subjected to me whining about my (mostly trivial) problems. (Sorry, Mom.)
My mother gave me an ultimatum: Either I do something about what was troubling me, or be quiet. Mom was tired of listening to me repeat the same old, boring stories about how put upon I felt, so she said that I had no right to complain as long as I refused to do anything about the problem. So I chose to address the issue, and then to drop it. I stopped whining about it, which then caused me to stop seeing myself as the victim. When I stopped seeing myself as the victim, I was able to approach the situation fairly. Everyone was equally culpable, so it was wrong for me to place the blame on just a few people. (And deflect it from myself)Mom and Dad raised me to be accountable for my actions, as well as accepting the consequences of them. If I continued with my constant complaints, I would have been too blinded my own martyr complex to empathise with the other people involved. Complaint-free living doesn’t work for everyone. (Particularly if the person gets a payoff for complaining–i.e. attention, validation, self-esteem, sympathy) Many people have more to complain about than I do. Sometimes, I break my own rule, and indulge in a “whine and cheese” session that has a similar effect as me partaking in real wine and cheese: I feel sick, a little light-headed, and I need to lay down afterward. (That’s an affliction called “contrition.”)
I’m an avid news-watcher. I watch the news to be informed about what is going on in the rest of the world. Learning about how other people live helps add perspective. I cannot complain because even when I’m broke, I have more than most of the people on earth. The fact that there are people with a thousand times more than me has no bearing on my daily life. When I can, I will use what I have to help someone who has less than I do.
I don’t see a problem with venting frustration. Sharing one’s feelings with people who are supportive can help lighten burdens. Complaining all the time about everything adds burdens. Particularly when the person you complain to is not directly involved. You can tell when you have tried a friends’ patience by whether or not she changes the subject when you launch into a tirade about your coworkers. If she does, she sick of hearing about that topic, but is too polite to tell you.
I figured out that complaining was holding me back. As long as I held the belief that I was always right, I could not move forward. Not everyone I encounter is at fault. Each person has equal potential to be an asset or a hinderance. Which side they fall on depends on the day, the circumstance, and that person’s choice.
Living a life with few complaints has helped me to embrace gratitude. Neither me, nor my life is perfect, but they’re both great. (If I do say so myself)
My life may just be on the way to where it needs to be, but I am grateful for every messy part of it. The mess gave me an ample training ground for what is to come. If I am not grateful for what I have, I will not be trusted with more.
It’s okay to complain occasionally. All of us do it. If complaining becomes a constant habit, it’s time to step back and figure out the cause of the brokenness. If everything and everyone around you are awful, it is either their fault or yours. Sometimes it’s both. But if you’re accustomed to placing blame rather than accepting responsibility, you’ll never figure out which, and spend the rest of your life wrongly accusing people when you are the one at fault.
This isn’t the advice of someone who has it all together. I still complain. It just isn’t a habit anymore. My rule of thumb is; if I cannot offer an alternative solution to the problem, I don’t complain. It’s simple, but it works–particularly when I have one of my self-absorbed diva moments. (Which are few and far between now, Thank God.)
As long as a person is alive, he or she will have some troubles in life. How the person handles difficulty gives the outside world a window on his or her character. Choose wisely.
I’m going to end with a quote by poet, Maya Angelou:
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”