We complain constantly, at home and at work. We complain about the temperature, and the taste of dinner, and the latest political event. We complain about people’s habits, and family disagreements, and traffic and prices and type-os and bad cell coverage and fast-food orders and litter and telemarketers and slow wifi and people who cut in line and our spouse leaving the toilet seat up. All day, every day, we’re focused on any aspect of life that is not up to our desired standard.
This spills over in our culture, which is consumed by victimhood. In social media, the news media, education, government and business, we are on the lookout for every tiny hint of present and historical unfairness. We search for ways in which we have been mistreated, misidentified, misused and mishandled. And so there is even more to complain about: nepotism and bigotry and offensive language and unanswered emails and loud music and unbalanced workloads and pay inequality and no days off and rude customers and egotistical bosses and bad legislation and too many regulations and gun violence and waiting for a doctor’s appointment and identity theft and Taylor Swift and police traffic stops.
Enter the example of Job, a man of the Bible. God asks, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity” (Job 2:3). When God says, “Hey, look at this guy”, he probably deserves our attention. And even irreligious people know the broad strokes of Job’s story. He has everything you could possibly want in the world, God takes it all away in horrific fashion, and yet Job remains steadfast and faithful. But there’s another aspect to Job’s story which is equally fascinating:
Job doesn’t complain. He loses his fortune, his entire family, his food supply, his livelihood, his home and his health. Yet the Bible tells us that Job did not complain. “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22). Job did have quite a bit to say about his situation, and he questioned himself and his actions and even God throughout his ordeal. But not once did he try to blame God, put Him down or say that He had acted wrongly. God calls Job “blameless and upright.” After Job’s testing, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part” (John 42:12).
The Bible tells us not to “grumble”, or complain faithlessly, in a way that, as Jon Bloom writes, “declares God is not sufficiently good, faithful, loving, wise, powerful or competent (Numbers 14:26-30, John 6:43, Philippians 2:14, James 5:9). Otherwise, he would treat us better or run the universe more effectively. Faithless complaining is sinful because it accuses God of doing wrong.” The is the core of complaining in today’s society—grumbling about circumstances in a way that places blame on others, and makes us a victim of their seemingly malevolent actions and attitudes.
In life we will grieve and lament and be troubled. God in these times encourages us to bring our complaints to Him. “With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him” (Psalm 142:1-2). In this though we are seeking God’s comfort, and asking Him to work through us and in the crisis or situation to bring about His best outcome. God accepts complaint that comes with an honest desire to trust Him more. But when it comes to grumbling about everyone and everything around us, why should leaders set complaints aside?
Stop complaining so you can be grateful. You cannot be appreciative and thankful as a leader if you are complaining. When should you choose gratitude over complaint? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” When it comes to attitude, gratitude wins every time for the Christ-follower. The idea is that gratitude sets the tone for the individual and the organization. When we proactively look for ways to be thankful and express thanksgiving regularly, it helps everyone to feel more positive, lessens anxiety, relieves stress and encourages focus on the needs of others.
When you as a leader are not complaining, you are also moving others to appreciate what they have, even in the midst of challenges in life and work. It gives those around you the example and opportunity to respond positively to a negative circumstance. Job, in the midst of his greatest difficulties, surprised by expressing gratitude to God, saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
Stop complaining so you can build relationships. Constant complaint drives a wedge between us and other people. When you complain or “vent” to people around you, it creates frustration and negativism, especially if you are unwilling to resolve the core issues involved. Complaining releases cortisol in your bloodstream, which raises blood pressure and blood sugar. No one enjoys being bombarded by complaints from their leaders. Instead look past flaws, disappointments and disagreements to see the very best in people. Let your conversation build others up, instead of searching for blame or bias. Ephesians 4:29 instructs, “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.”
All people are flawed and sinful. If that is your focus as a leader, you are certain to find something to complain about in each and every person who crosses your path. Instead, build bridges of conversation with people of differing backgrounds and experience. Nobody ever made a genuine friend by complaining about people and circumstances. Living with a complainer is emotionally depleting to the point of exhaustion. If we’re honest with ourselves, complaining never makes us feel better. To the contrary if we’re angry it makes us more angry. If we’re frustrated it makes us more frustrated, if we’re discontent it makes us more discontent. Whatever our negative attitude, complaining just makes it more negative.
Stop complaining so you can trust God. Trust in God is built through adversity and unpredictable circumstances. You can’t complain about everything that is wrong and at the same time trust God to work through it to make it right. This is why God asks, “Have you considered my servant Job?” Why, because he is well-off, self-sufficient, has a compelling vision? No, Job is worth considering because his trust in God is not dependent on his present circumstances. Trusting in all circumstances is the very definition of trustworthy.
We learn to know God and trust God when we study His Word, the Bible, daily, and when we pray. As we know God more, He will often place us in positions were trusting Him is required. Consider the nation of Israel, who complained constantly after God miraculously led them out of Egypt. In Exodus 16:3 they complain, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” They completely missed that every step God gave them, from the plagues, to the parting of the Red Sea, to the journey in the desert, required them to trust God more and more as they went. Israel was so filled with complaint they completely missed what God was doing.
Job, though, clearly saw that God was doing something: “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22).