I was a teen working in my local, hometown, IGA (Independent Grocers Association) store. My responsibilities were mainly to bag groceries, stock shelves, and radiate a caring attitude of customer service. I also occasionally ran the cash register. One day as I was running the register, a mature man came forward with his items. He continually told me that he deserved a 10% discount because of his age, and that he possessed several coupons to reduce the cost of his purchases. Before I started checking out groceries, my manager/owner specifically relayed to me that I needed to subtract all coupons before adding any discounts. This is what the boss said, so that’s what I did.
Unfortunately, the shopper was not very pleased at all. He yelled. He complained. He berated me in front of the other customers and staff. I felt humiliated. Even at a young age I realized that this behavior was wrong and extremely unhealthy. Complaining does not build up, but it tears down. Unfortunately, there is not one of us who hasn’t inappropriately “lashed out” at another. Whether it’s the telemarketers who incessantly call us at the most inconvenient times, the food servers who we deem to be slow in service and attentiveness, a relentless family member or acquaintance who annoys us, or the insurance companies who refuse to pay our claims, we sometimes lose it. Out of frustration and a lack of feeling cared for, impatience can easily set into our hearts, as grumbling rolls off our tongues.
Please don’t get me wrong. There are legitimate reasons why we need to “speak out.” When an injustice needs to be confronted, corruption revealed, or another human being freed from abuse, voices and actions are essential. But just wanting to have our own ways, desiring control, and taking out a “pound of flesh” on another is wrong, and far from God-like.
Holy Scripture has a lot to say about complaining. In Numbers 11:1-3 we’re told that the Hebrews were complaining about their misfortunes, and God acted decisively against their complaining. James 5:9 tells us, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” And in Ephesians 4:29 it is written, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Instead of our first response being that of complaining, how about a response of thankfulness? Being grateful for every blessing that comes from God. Being thankful for others and the services which they provide. In I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 it says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I once ministered to an extremely thankful person. She had spent her life being a rural mail carrier, and this individual did more than just deliver the mail. She actually checked upon, and had relationships with her aging clients. This woman had a servant’s heart. Eventually, as her eyesight was deteriorating, she was forced to retire. But there were no complaints. This believer in Jesus read her beloved books, and continually reached out to others. I was utterly amazed at her gratefulness, especially when someone did the smallest thing for her. As I memorialize her, I sometimes wonder if her thankful attitude stemmed from her simply serving and loving others? As it is written in II Corinthians 9:11-12, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. “
I know. Sometimes it’s just too easy to complain, get it off our chests, desiring to feel that something could be changed or accomplished. But have we ever truly felt how the other person feels at the end of our wrath? My dad used to always share with me that old antidote, “you win more bees with honey then you do with vinegar.” When we chose to complain rather than be thankful, I think it says so much more about us rather than the person receiving our unkindness.”