A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
-Proverbs 17:22

Why are we celebrating Christmas on December 25?
Why is there a Christmas tree in the Sanctuary?
Why do I have to give up my parking space for once-a-year visitors?
Pastor, your sermons sound the same every Christmas.
I’m not being spiritually fed by your Christmas message.
Why are we designating our Christmas offering for…? I want my money to go to….
There is no communication in this church.
You left my name off of the Poinsettia List.

So this is Christmas…

As the holidays roll around and people are considering what’s the best present to give each other, for pastors and those working in the church, the highest and most abundant gift they receive is the Gift of Complaining. Among all the “spiritual” gifts bestowed upon us, it’s one of the most notable—it keeps on giving and giving, all through the year, particularly during Christmas holidays. Just ask your church leaders or their families.

How Much Do We Complain?

Apparently, on an average people complain nearly 15-30 times a day—and those are probably the happy, positive people.

Why Do We Complain?

Because it feels so good. We vent and we pout and it’s always someone else’s fault. The adrenaline, the “hurt,” the manipulation—it is invigorating. It’s also a great conversation starter as more people have more to contribute to a negative conversation than a positive one. Have you noticed how social media thrives on snark and negativity…slander and gossip?

So stop and think about what you’ve complained about today—the shoppers, your friends and relatives, politics, the laundry, your work, the bills, the traffic, the weather, the Internet…and the pastor. Now count how many times you’ve done that.

Why Is Complaining Bad for You?

When you keep feeding yourself negativity, it affects your mood and your self-esteem, and does things to your brain that shouldn’t be happening—like your hippocampus shrinking. Also, people who have to listen to your whining are negatively impacted by it. Think secondhand smoke. And on top of everything, you just become boring to be around.

Also, complaining is an addiction. If you don’t think you’re addicted to complaining, try going a day without finding fault with anything or anyone. That chap who cut you off on the road, that baby carriage-pushing terrorist who slammed that four-wheeler in front of you and tripped you, your boss who didn’t compliment you on your hard work, the Saint whining about all her troubles on Twitter, and so forth.

Why Are There More Complaints at Christmastime?

Because we feel we deserve more. God isn’t delivering. Neither is Santa Claus. That Christmas Miracle is not happening—we’re lonely, we’re needy, and we’re unhappy. The reasons for complaining stem from genuine hurt and general disgruntlement—felt more keenly during the holidays. As real as some of the complaints are, maybe it is time for everyone to take the Scriptures to heart and rejoice with those who are rejoicing, weep with those who are weeping, and face the fact that not everything is going to be the way we like it—in life and in the church. There are consequences to our poor choices, and sometimes God permits hardships to grow us out of our immaturity and coziness.

How to Stop Being a Whiner

Be realistic about what bothers you. Write down a whine and gratitude list. Seek help and accountability with the whine part, set boundaries, and try to change the way you approach each negative situation. Replace each complaint with something you’re thankful for. Thank God for all the good things he has given you which you think you might be taking for granted. The more you practice the gratitude part, the more you will depart from chronic negativity. Surprise your pastors and church leaders this year by thanking them—there has got to be at least one thing they’ve done right!

Merry Christmas!

Photo via Flickr