Take an honest look
If you’re like me, this is a question you really don’t want to think about or honestly answer. As I’m working on the gratitude retreats that are coming up, I realize I have to take a look at complaining. If you want to be a more grateful person but feeling frustrated about certain people or situations in your life, an honest look at complaining will help you get over that hump to a place of gratitude.
Is complaining a habit?
Complaining can be a habit you don't even realize you have. I find that I'm constantly complaining that I'm tired. It's like I'm expecting at all moments to feel perfect, awake, energized and motivated. If I don't feel all of these things, I think there's something wrong with me, and I complain about it. It's become a habit because I notice it's the first thing that comes out of my mouth when someone asks me how I'm doing (even if I’m not that tired!).
What about you? Are there some chronic complaints that you're in the habit of saying about yourself? "I'm so slow." "I have the worst luck.” “How come I can never get a break?” Or maybe there are some chronic complaints you’re in the habit of thinking about or saying to others? "You're lazy." "You don't understand me." "You're not listening."
When complaining is not complaining
To be sure, there are statements of fact. There are times when saying, "I'm tired" is simply self-awareness which can help you realize you need to take better care of your body. Personally, since I’m deep in a grieving journey I do get tired a lot and I do need to acknowledge that and rest a lot. There may be some real health, respect or boundary issues that you want to recognize in your life as well. I’m not asking you to ignore the things that are truly important to recognize.
The questions to ask yourself
The invitation here is to ask yourself whether there are some chronic complaints you make about yourself or others that have become part of your everyday habit and behavior and contribute to a never enough feeling. No one wants to think of themselves as a complainer but recognizing the never enough feeling is the key to the journey towards gratitude. The vicious cycle of complaining that the people or situations in our lives are never enough is unhealthy for our relationships, health and faith and gets in the way of living a life of gratitude. Are there chronic complaints you make that may be unhealthy for you? Take a moment and reflect on who and what is enough in your life.
Here’s an interesting poem by Mary Jo Leddy from the book “Radical Gratitude”. It illustrates this never enough trap that is so easy to fall into and may help uncover some thoughts for you.
by Mary Jo Leddy, “Radical Gratitude”
It is the ingratitude that blinds us.
Our failure to see what we have
on the way to getting more
Our disregard for what we step over
on the way to somewhere else.
Our lack of attention to the person by our side
on the way to someone else
Our dismissal of the good that we do
on the way to something greater.
All that we take for granted falls through our hands
and disappears from sight.
And we too fall away
from ourselves and from You.
We walk by ourselves
by the wayside
and do not recognize You
on the way to something better.
Grounding yourself in abundance
An invitation to live a life of gratitude is not an invitation to deny there is injustice and suffering in the world. It means grounding your outlook in all that you do have and responding to the things heavy on your heart with a more loving heart. When you respond from a place of abundance, your response is more mature and fruitful. When you respond from a place of scarcity, the way you approach conversations and decisions will be based on fear, and the response will not be as loving or effective.
Grace and Gratitude retreat
A look at complaining is only a small (but very interesting) part of the online retreat “Grace and Gratitude: Cultivating a heart that believes I have enough, do enough, and am enough” starting Monday, March 18th. The majority of the time we’ll be exploring all of the different ways God’s grace is available to us, how God’s grace can show us we have enough, do enough and are enough and how we can respond in gratitude. You’ll see how gratitude can be a moment to moment practice of receiving God’s grace and responding in gratitude, which makes for a much more peaceful, prayerful, serving way of life. It’s a gratitude practice that works no matter what is happening in your life.
I’d love to hear what you think of this reflection. Do find it’s easy to get in the habit of complaining? Do you notice the difference when you approach a situation from a place of what you do have rather than what you don’t have?
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