Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Complaining -What I Learned This Week

I wrote a bit bout complaining this past Sunday. There I talked about a reminder in James of how complaining can be dangerous and destructive.  

Boy howdy, can it ever.

The question is can complaining ever be productive?   Something happened last week that had me pondering this question.  So, I thought I'd share my thoughts and where I finally ended up. 

Over the years, I've had the honor of leading different groups at my church like MOPS, our Ladies Morning bible study and coaching small group leaders. Often my role is as the liaison between the staff at my church and those I've been entrusted to lead.   I find myself in an interesting position as I often listen to the concerns of those in my groups and try to address them by sharing the vision of the church, acting as a buffer of sorts.  

Anyway, whether you lead in your church, your school, your work or your neighborhood you will find that the people you are working with will share concerns about one thing or another.  I'm just going to call it like it is, though - most of the time you will be listening to people complain.  And as a leader, you will most likely have a few complaints of your own. 

Not that it matters much but I'm going to share a list of synonyms for complain from Dictionary.com.
  • The slang Jewish word for complaining it is kvetch.   I've heard that word used among girlfriends a lot.
  • There's bemoan, oppose, take exception to or disagree
  •  Getting it out.  Venting your feelings.    and many many more...
 Honestly, I don't think I ever thought of any of those words or ideas as complaining.    

We do it innocently really.  Maybe something just doesn't feel right to us or it goes against what we know.  Often we are doing it to just to bounce an issue off of another friend.   I know that for me, I find myself complaining when I want to be assured I'm right or when I feel an injustice about something.   While I normally embrace change pretty well, I sometimes find myself complaining when I am caught off guard by the change.

That's what happened last week - a big change in something I'm involved in.  I was not prepared for it and before I stopped to listen to the vision behind the change, I had a whole list of complaints.  Thank heavens, I finally ended up surrendering those complaints before I voiced them.  

It was a good reminder to me, though.

Okay, so what I have I learned about complaining?

Well, sometimes complaining is good.  But not just to complain for the sake of being heard.

First, I refer back to the questions that I spoke of on Sunday.
  •  Is what I'm about to say helpful?
  • Will it build up or tear down? 
  • Will it benefit anyone? 
  • Am I talking to the right person?

  • To disagree constructively and in the right environment is healthy.  Having an opposing view can actually help others think about another way and maybe move to quicker resolution.  Sometimes one person becomes very convicted about something in their own life that another may not have considered.    The experience of one can influence another. 

  • To bemoan to a trusted friend about something that is really bothering you can help you actually heal and move past it.  But not to just anyone.   I have a couple friends in my life that I call my "Lightning Rods."  A lightning rod what people put on their roofs to take the strike of lightning before it destroys a house.  
Again, I refer to Dictionary.com.  

lightning rod

1. a rodlike conductor installed to divert lightning away from a structure by providing a direct path to the ground.
2. a person or thing that attracts and absorbs powerful and esp. negative or hostile feelings, opinions, etc., thereby diverting such feelings from other targets
This person should be strong.  Someone who is not easily influenced by the opinions or emotions of other people.  This person should love you but maybe not too much.  A spouse is not always the best choice for this because they are too emotionally involved in your life.     This person should also be very trusted to take in what you have to say and lock it up.   I have one person like this and she is my saving grace sometimes.  Actually, we agreed to do this for each other and it works great for both of us.   It seems like sometimes when I vent to her that once the words are released from my head, they don't seem to be that big of a deal anymore. 

    • Another leader once told me that if you are going to complain to "complain up."  Meaning, if you want to complain for change - go to the person who can change it.   Do not complain laterally - to the people in your same position.  It will just bring them down and make them mistrustful of the leadership you are under and believe it or not - you too.   Definitely, do not complain to those you are entrusted to lead.    They are looking to you for strength and reassurance.  Even if they are complaining to you...and they will...do not complain back. Just love them and try to assure them you understand and hear them.
    • Most importantly, I've found that if I go to God with my complaint first that most of the time my heart is changed.  If I find the issue is still gnawing at me it's only then that I know it might be something I need to talk to someone about.   
    • Finally, I have to say that most of the time complaining will not get you far.  I find that when I interact with a person that complains a lot, I tend to tune them out.  The best answer is serving others and helping to find a solution.  Listen first (always a good reminder to me).  Asking questions and seeking to understand usually works best for me. 
    I'd love to hear your thoughts on complaining.  Or not complaining.

    For more lessons learned this week, head on over to Musings of a Housewife.   

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      Stefani said...

      This is a very timely post. I was just complaining about Wake County's decision to cancel school tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder to watch my tongue!

      Janel@Dandelion Dayz said...

      Are you kidding me!?!?!!? ugh....

      Well, our kids will be safe right? Let's look at it like that.

      That is hard not to complain about.

      April said...

      Good stuff here! I looooove to complain to my husband or to my mom, and I know it's not benefitting them at all. Someone once told me to "pester God" instead, and I think it's the best solution yet!

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