A couple weeks ago, my good friend, Justin Wallace asked me a question about the root issue with inadequacy and with complaining. He leads a campus ministry at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He sees the issue of inadequacy in university students and he sees the issue of complaining in our culture in general.
I believe that the root issue for both inadequacy and complaining is self-centeredness. I will write about inadequacy some other time. I want to focus on complaining in this blog.
Paul encouraged the Philippians to do everything without complaining or arguing. His reason? So that we would become blameless and pure, without fault, in a crooked and depraved generation. We are to shine like stars as we hold out the word of life. Philippians 2:14-16
Have you noticed that people complain about just about everything: the weather, Christmas, our favorite sports team, family, friends, others’ imperfections, our own imperfections, etc.. I think that our bent towards having a complaining spirit is based on a misconception that the rest of creation exists to make me happy. I am not sure where this idea originates, but there certainly is a deep desire in all of us to be happy.
If the weather is not a perfect 70 degrees and sunny, it cuts into my happiness. If the driver of another car demonstrates idiotic behavior, it cuts into my happiness. If my family or friends do not love me the way I want to be loved, it cuts into my happiness. If my sports team plays with incompetence or is “cheated” by the officials, it cuts into my happiness. If my mate disappoints me or my kids frustrate me, it cuts into my happiness. If I make a mistake, it cuts into my happiness. If I view things as cutting into my happiness, it means that I have surrendered to the overriding view of self-centeredness and maybe even self-worship. My attitude of self-centeredness will lead me to respond to life with a complaining spirit.
In reality, a complaining spirit is not very attractive. Have you ever said, “I like him/her. He/she has such a beautiful complaining spirit.” In fact we have probably complained about someone else’s complaining spirit.
One problem with self-centeredness is that I cannot understand what God is doing in my life. All I can “see” is what makes me unhappy. God is at work in each one of our lives. He did not place us on planet earth to make me happy. He put me here to make me holy. Pursuing holiness develops God-centered character. Pursuing happiness adds to my self-centeredness and never develops good character qualities.
I agree with Justin’s perspective that our culture has a problem with complaining. We are a very self-centered people. To be a non-complainer means we will probably stand out. It will often earn us the right to speak into people’s lives. I want to attempt to live beyond complaining in order to better understand what God is attempting to develop in me. I want to be able to instantly recognize those times when I show up with a complaining thought so I can crucify “self” one more time.