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Complaining

“Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.  And the people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ ” Exodus 15:23-24

The children of Israel seemed to be good a doing only one thing: complaining.

There’s no record in all of the exodus accounts of them trying to do anything to help themselves, at least not one that has them cooperating with God and Moses, but it seems that every time they encounter any kind of hardship or difficulty the same same four words record their reaction, “And the people complained.”

As regards to complaining the apostle Paul gives this very simple instruction to Christians in Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without complaining…”

In my opinion complaining is an extremely ineffective way for a person to communicate their desire for something to be different than it is. Complaining is more capable of generating defensiveness, anger, and half hearted effort than true cooperation.

A far simpler, more effective, and less aggravating way for gaining cooperation would be to just ask for what you want or, if the relationship is right, tell people what you want them to do.

Let’s consider a common situation at home. Dinner has just been completed and everyone begins to drift away from the table to other activities. Frequently this leaves one person, often mom, to see to putting away any leftovers and washing the dishes.

She could start grumbling under her breath about ungrateful people until she generates enough steam to fuel a full fledged scalding as she directs her complaints at her husband and children. This onslaught will most likely drive them into a defensive posture where they begin protesting about the productive things they have to do and reciting a recent history lesson on all the ways they’ve already been helpful. In the end the dishes do get done but only after tempers have flared and feelings have been hurt.

An alternative course would be for mom to simply tell someone capable of following through what she wants them to do. She may get some push back at first but if she resists complaining as she responds to it she’ll find that cooperation is achieved with far less aggravation and unhappiness.

Paul’s full statement about not complaining tells us that it yields a harvest greater than merely less stressful cooperation. It makes us, the ones not complaining, into more Christlike people. “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

Do you want to be more like Christ and do you want others to see the your different? Exchanging your complaining for more cooperative ways of communicating is a good place to start.

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