No Complaints – An Experiment

Yesterday, our family went on a lovely hike up a mountain. It was a crisp 14 degree day, but the sun was shining and the views were breathtaking.

It’s something we all enjoy doing together. But I must admit, I’ve had to grow into it.

When my husband and I met, my idea of a “bush walk” was a leisurely half hour stroll, across level ground on a clearly marked trail. My idea of a bush walk made him laugh.

But theoretically, we both liked “bush walking”, even though our concepts of this were poles apart. So, we persisted with going on bush walks for dates, with friends and then as a family.

My husband often chose walks that were above my fitness level because he enjoys a challenge and he wanted to help me improve. Did I want to improve? Heck no!

So I made sure he knew how much I was NOT enjoying myself every time we went on a bush walk. I made sure to vocalise every moment of discomfort. Our treks through the beautiful scenery were punctuated by comments like “I feel like I’m dying!” and “Man, my calves are aching” and “Can we just cut the walk short?”

There was one memorable bush walk we did shortly after becoming engaged, when we had a fight so bad we ended up going in separate directions, until one of us decided to turn around and walk back to the other. I don’t even remember what the fight was about now, but I would not be surprised if it had something to do with my crappy attitude.

When we met up again, we were about to pick up our argument where we left off, but we suddenly noticed a pair of Bearded Dragons mating.

I’m not even joking. Here’s a picture of the lizards basking in post-coital bliss and sunshine:

P1030770

(We have a video of the actual mating, but I’m not going to post that because 1. it’s full of really embarrassing commentary and 2. you really aren’t interested in seeing that and 3. if you didn’t already know we’re total weirdos, you do now… I mean, who films lizards mating? Really? I digress…)

It was as if God was shouting at us, “Stop your stupid whining, and look at this amazing world I’ve made! That’s what you came out here to enjoy!”

Over the years, I have become more aware of my complaining habit and I’ve been trying to curb this. But there’s still a part of me that thinks it’s perfectly reasonable that my husband should know if I’m unhappy or uncomfortable.

On the face of it, that statement might sound alright. I mean, what kind of cruel husband doesn’t want his wife to be happy and comfortable? Who would possibly object to hearing the true feelings of his wife?

There are several things that come into play here:

  • “True feelings” is an oxymoron. Feelings are completely subjective and even the act of stating them changes them. So, there are no true feelings, there are only current feelings.
  • What we choose to dwell on, in our thoughts and words, becomes more important to us. So the more we state our complaints, the more real our perceived suffering becomes, and the less content we are.
  • A good husband (like mine – sorry, he’s taken) is more concerned with his wife’s long term development of character and health than with her immediate comfort levels.

There is a Bible verse that the Lord has been bringing to my attention a lot lately:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing

It’s one of those verses that I nod my head to, and think “Yeah, I should try to complain less”, and then promptly forget the next time I have something to grumble about.

So as we were driving to our mountain climb yesterday, the Holy Spirit prompted me to remember this verse. I turned to my husband and said, “Darling, I’m not going to complain the whole time we’re on this bush walk.”

He said, “Alright, but before you start, I should tell you something…”

“Yes?”

He said, “There are a lot of stairs on this walk.”

For the non-bush walkers, stairs = raised heart rate and aching legs.

I closed my mouth and may have caused my tongue to bleed a little bit.

“You don’t have anything to say about that? Okay.”

And so began one of the most enjoyable bush walks I’ve ever been on.

It’s amazing what you can take in when you are not focused on your own pain and discomfort.

Sure, there were times when I had to make the effort not to complain. But it was almost as though by denying those complaints air time, I cut off their very life source.

Instead, I focused my speech on the beauty of the views, how much I appreciated the exercise, the warm sun and encouraging our daughter (who seems to have picked up my complaining habit).

If we read the rest of the passage that I quoted before, it sheds a bit more light on the issue of complaining (and grumbling, and arguing) and why these are important things to curb.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

God has richly blessed us with so many things. There are his everyday provisions – food, water, rain, sunshine, beauty – and there are his spiritual blessings given to Christians – salvation, the Holy Spirit, santification, faith, righteousness, relationship with Jesus.

To complain is to be discontent. To complain is to suggest that God has not given us enough. To complain is to say that God is not enough.

And if we – who are so richly blessed – do not consider God to be enough, then why would anyone else want God? Why would anyone else want to become a Christian if they look around and Christians are complaining about all the same things they are?

We would be like dead stars. Not shining, not even visible against the dark night sky.

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