Spilling coffee in the car. Favorite jeans ripping. A dead fly in the salad. These are the makings of a bad day. As the ungrateful beings we tend to be, we’re bound to tell Lucy, her great aunt, her great aunt’s dog, and whoever else will listen, about our horrible day.
“Research shows that most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation,” says Travis Bradberry, an expert on emotional intelligence. Science also finds that complaining causes brain damage. It comes as no surprise, then, that the bible shows complaining eats away at a person’s soul. Let me explain.
Finding a new shortcut to work can be enough to make a grown man dance on his tiptoes. Like a ballerina. In a tutu. We like shortcuts. We like less work. So do our brains. By complaining repeatedly, our brains form new shortcuts in our thoughts. Like whacking away underbrush on a trail, the more a person complains, the more they enforce the shortcut. Pretty soon, complaining is our brain’s go-to in every conversation. We literally change our noggins with constant whining (click How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity).
Complaining also affects the part of the brain responsible for memory. This is also the part of the brain responsible for Alzheimer’s. Maybe we don’t want to risk damaging it by verbalizing rage at our half- frosted donut. HOW HARD IS IT TO EVENLY SPREAD WHITE GOO OVER A PASTRY?!
Complaining isn’t ALL bad. If complaining is done with a purpose, it can help a person’s brain by processing emotion. We need to know how to healthily discuss our problems and emotions with friends and family. “Complaining” to loved ones in this way allows us the opportunity to find a solution through their suggestions (click Complaining, For Your Health).
Complaining is damaging when it doesn’t problem solve. It even affects our social lives. People will avoid us like dog poop on a walking trail if our only function is bringing them negativity.
Who are the people we actually enjoy talking to in life? Why do we like talking to them? It’s usually because they listen to us, offer sound advice, and make us feel comfortable and at ease; which brings us to the spiritual damage of complaining.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
The Bible has a few things to say about whiny words. It goes along with the whole “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we speak” notion. It’s not that God doesn’t want to hear about our worries. He does (Philippians 4:6). However, our worries become other people’s burdens when the complaints are petty and nonconstructive.
Paul, a dude who’s seen stuff worse than two-week-old meat in the church potluck chili, was a man who valued thankfulness. He wrote the following words while he was under house arrest. Alone. Probably getting carpal tunnel from writing so much of the New Testament...
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Again, Paul wrote this after being tortured for the gospel, jailed, and continuously persecuted.
Contentment, joy, and peace can be found in Christ, if only we pursue Him.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
That’s right, folks. We need to have our conversation partner in mind during the conversation. That means assessing the impact of our complaint about the half-frosted donut before we say it.
“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.”
Wowza. Grumbling about the frosting status of our holed pastry is attributed to being “warped and crooked.” Complaining can also dull our God-given light more than black boots covered in mud. Whining dims the shining we’re equipped with to share the gospel.
The spiritual summary of complaining is this: complaining causes individual discontentment, a disregard for others, and damage to the ability of a believer to share the gospel.
The physical summary of complaining: complaining rewires the brain, causes social harm, and should only be done if it is used for problem-solving.
If we want to be complaint free, we can actively seek God’s strength, through prayer, to aid us in ceasing our grumbling. We can also be more mindful of our words, catching ourselves when we start to whine. It takes work to break any habit, but complaining is certainly a habit worth breaking. Even if we ripped our favorite jeans.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”