Permit me to complain a moment. About those who whine and complain.
A few years ago, I was called out for complaining about something that, quite frankly was a waste of time to complain about. It was at work, and I was irritated by a set of circumstances that ultimately I couldn’t change, but I felt should have never occurred. It was making my job more difficult, so I began to complain (maybe even whine a bit). When I stopped, I overheard someone mock what I said quietly and in a whiny voice behind my back. They were unaware that I had heard them. At first I was angry. Then I thought about it. He was right to mock me. I was being whiny and I needed to stop it. It was a hard lesson to learn in the moment, but one I needed to learn.
It’s easier to react negatively to most things in life.
Reacting negatively by complaining and whining about things around us, is easy. It’s also lazy. It requires little self-awareness and no forethought. It can even cause others not to want to be around us.
The gas prices are out of control? Complain to everyone in the car when you pass a gas station. Your favorite politician didn’t get elected? Whine about how the country is falling apart. Your day didn’t go according to plan? Whine about it to anyone who will listen in an attempt to gain sympathy. People at work or school doing stupid things to make your life miserable? Complain about it to your co-worker or friends. New music today is terrible? Alright, I still catch myself using this one sometimes because, well, Justin Bieber. I’ve got to learn to keep my mouth shut and do all I can to make sure I’m never subjected to it.
The fact is, every generation since the invention of the automobile has probably complained about the price of gas. Maybe some of the complaints were legitimate, but unless you were a member of OPEC and could magically drop the price of oil, what good did it do to complain to everyone? In the early in the 1980′s the Democrats thought their world was falling apart. In the 1990′s the Republicans. In the early 2000′s, the Democrats. In the past 4 plus years and the next 4, it’s the Republicans turn again. See a trend? Everyone since the dawn of time has had a bad day or a day that just didn’t work out like they had planned. Ever read about Job in the Bible? That guy had a bad day. The difference between his reaction and yours (or mine)? He didn’t really complain. People do stupid things. Sure, it can be an inconvenience, but I do stupid things sometimes too. Complaining about other people’s stupid actions won’t improve anything for you or for anyone around you.
I guess the question is, how do you react to all of the things in life that you have to deal with? There lies the solution. If your initial reaction (to most things in life) is negative, you’re likely to find yourself complaining and maybe even whining about things that you have no reason to be complaining about. I know this from my own foolish experience, and I suspect you do too, because you’re pretty smart. Maybe we should work on that character flaw?
Sometimes the complaints are overblown, even if valid.
Maybe some of our complaints are valid. Look, I realize it is entirely possible to have a complaint about someone or something, and it be perfectly reasonable. But, how are we presenting our complaint? How are we reacting to the situation that may require a solution of some kind? Can we help provide the solution? Will complaining help, or hurt the solution?
Is the situation nearly as bad as we think it is? Before we start shouting our grievances to the top of our Facebook rooftops, maybe we should try to gain some perspective. It never hurts to take a step back and survey the field before we air any sort of complaint.
Sometimes our culture and especially the media can make things seem much worse than they are. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves getting sucked into one flavor of the week after the next. Before we realize it, we’re complaining about one issue after another, often when there isn’t a whole lot we can do about them.
The current flavor of the week for many politicians and media types is violence. More specifically, gun violence. I agree, it’s horrible that anyone would kill another human being (no matter the tool used to kill them) and we should do all that we can to ensure it never occurs. However if you listened only to politicians, popular culture, and the media you’d think the world has gone murder happy. Yet, it hasn’t according to Randolph Ross, professor of history at Ohio State University, “We’re at as low a place as we’ve been in the past 100 years. The rate oscillates between about 5 and 9 [per 100,000], sometimes a little higher or lower, and we’re right at the bottom end of that oscillation.” I invite you to read the entire article here. After reading that article, all I can say is, I’m glad I wasn’t living in Texas between 1846 and 1887 and its counties with 500 murders per 10,000 people. Obviously, the eyes of a Texas Ranger were no where to be found in those counties.
So if complaining and especially whining doesn’t usually help the problem, what can we (regular Joe, you, and me) do? It’s pretty simple, really. Here are my two personal rules when I begin to feel the need to complain:
- If the problem is something I can fix or improve, then I need to do just that.
- If the problem is something I can’t do much about in the grand scheme of life, I need to just keep my mouth shut.
In both cases of course, never complaining if it can be helped, and certainly never any whining. That’s the hard part. I know. I’m still working on it, but over the past few years it has been worth it.
Thank you, mocking co-worker.