STOP YOUR GRUMBLING!
What is the difference between a critique of a situation, event, or person and complaining? That is easy for me; when I do it then it is a critique, but when others do it they are complaining. How I wish I was really that righteous and could say that in all honesty.
I sometimes jokingly tell people that my spiritual gift is criticism, but it is actually a confession of sorts. I have been trained, and I am inclined, to analyze events and performance. I have often demoralized people who work for me and with me by telling them how something could have been better instead of thanking them, or complimenting them on their efforts. I am grateful that some of them had the courage to let me know they didn’t appreciate my “helpful” comments. Evidently they didn’t want to improve, but at least I learned something. (I do hope you “get” sarcasm when you read it.)
I have caused damage to my marriage, to my children, and to the staff and members of my church because of my “natural” inclination. Now, sometimes I have been really disappointed in someone’s performance or even in the circumstances that God in his providence decided I had need to experience. Instead of rejoicing always, and in every situation, I have certainly let God know that he could have done a better job at providing, or guiding me, or controlling me or the situation. I may not have balled my fist or yelled out at him, but certainly the attitude of my heart was doing the same thing.
[My comments here are about fairly superficial circumstances, and not that of “the dark night of the soul” or a deep struggle with God about the death of loved ones, suffering, and injustice. Sometimes a very honest discussion with God is necessary, but the only righteous conclusion of such an argument with God has to be, like that of Job, where the Lord is acknowledged as justly and righteously God in his wisdom and decision.]
I realize that I need lots of praise, expressions of appreciation, and encouragement. At times I think I have been desperate for it. My emotional well-being depended on hearing from people I respected; that I was saying, doing, or being what they thought was important and worthwhile. Yet, when others have looked to me, or listened out for just one good word, I have been silent. Their excellence and their contribution to my event or goals was what I thought it should be and I walked away as if I took it for granted, which I have far too many times. May God forgive me, again. “…How good is a timely word.” Proverbs 15:23
When we complain about people, especially to other people rather than the one about who our complaint is about, we may be guilty of slander. It is so easy of course to “evaluate” others, to see their mistakes and failures. Sometimes when we are in authority we have to hold those people accountable, correct them, or even to dismiss them from employment. We have no right to mock them, impugn their motives, or deride them to others. We certainly wouldn’t like it if they did that to us, so when we do it we are guilty of not loving others as we love ourselves. Guarding our tongues in this can be difficult especially when we work in a place where we have to discuss the performance or behavior of others and how they relate to the ministry or organization for which we have responsibilities.
How we speak about the institutions we are part of, (for whom we work or have been willingly associated with), also exposes our integrity, our ability to respect authority, and our faith or lack of it when it comes to reflecting out loud on how this or that institution might be treating us or others. Some of us feel free to disparage (from within) the very ministries, organizations, or companies we are supposed to be building, managing, and helping to prosper.
I am often startled by how members of a church or a denomination can at one moment vociferously denounce it while remaining in it and even enjoying the blessings and privileges it grants them. “A perverse man stirs up dissension and a gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28 This kind of grumbling seems to come out quickly and suddenly with seemingly no self-awareness of hypocrisy. I confess, all organizations and institutions fail to be perfect. It is sort of a logical necessity that fallen human beings collectively working together will screw things up. What is amazing, by the grace of God, is what actually goes well and is done well.
I am not abandoning the desire for excellence. I certainly need to aspire to greater and better achievement, to accomplishment, to good work. I need to stop cutting myself so much slack in evaluating what I am doing and excusing my failures. However, I know I need positive response to keep going, encouraging response from others to cheer for me on my run through this life. If I need it so badly, then I pray for God to open my mouth so I will let others know they are running well, or even that at least they are still running when it looks so hard to do so. “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life…” Proverbs 15:4
We need to be careful with our grumbling, with our complaints, with our astute observations of the weakness and incapacity of others. We dare not insult a very good and faithful God about his performance. What will we do when he demonstrates that he can be really good at holding people accountable for the stupid things that come out of their mouths and which expose their hearts?