Recently, there’s been a rash of complaining at our house. It started in earnest bright and early Monday morning.
“What? Eggs againnn?”
“This homework is too hard!”
And so the week went on, in no particular order…
“I haven’t liked church for four years. I get up and put on my fanciest clothes (read: flannel shirt), and out in the cold to the church. It’s cold and usually raining. We sing songs – and you know, singing isn’t very manly – then we sit and listen to someone ramble for an hour about the same topic.”
“You make me do too much work!” Growl, growl.
“I’m grounded? I’ll stay in my room for 10 years!” Stomp, stomp, stomp.
Yes, please do, to the last statement.
Some of these don’t necessarily reflect the regular, sunny(ish) dispositions of the speakers, nor are they necessarily truth. Some of these exchanges devolved into personal attacks on me. It’s part and parcel, at times, with being a parent. I’ve done my best to stay sweet and reiterate expectations and remind of behavioral standards. Yet even I have limits. Please don’t be shocked, dear reader. I’m still made of flesh and blood and crazy hair.
The trouble with complaining is that it spreads like an airborne virus. Listen to someone complain about something, even rather benign, like the weather, and you’re off and running. Everyone jumps in with their gripes. Finally, a captive audience, right? Then…kids these days! Then it’s local government. Then national government. The dire fate of the world. Overpopulation. Pollution. Decaf coffee. Where does it end?
If by some small miracle you don’t join in, you’re somewhat lowered by even overhearing the conversation. You experience a hit of depression. Your personal road suddenly feels full of rocks. You start thinking, Yeah, things aren’t that rosy. My job sucks. I have an insensitive and inattentive spouse, too. Our bank account sure can’t take any more hits or we’re sunk.
See? The seed of discontent lands so easily in our hearts.
So this morning, I found myself kind of down. I had my own grumbling spirit to contend with, my own contentious heart-whispers. I started actively thanking God for the many blessings I have. It took awhile. I prayed specifically to keep cool this morning, no matter what others around me said or did. I started to remember a scripture: Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. – Philippians 2:14-15. I’m as guilty as anyone else, though more cognizant of the power of my words than I used to be.
Zac calmed down overnight. Amazing what a good night’s sleep can do, and forgiveness.
Ruby spent a good portion of the morning in her room doing her homework. After she got dressed, she came and found me. She pouted in silence, her back to mine. As I put on my running shoes, I leaned over and hugged her.
“Ruby, I love you. But when you’re mean to me, I don’t have to listen. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, only that I choose not to get hurt.”
She didn’t say anything, but climbed onto my back, a 45-lb. monkey with her own crazy hair . She got it. No more lecture necessary.