When my big kids were younger we received a Steve Green music CD of Bible verses. One of my favourite songs on that CD was Philippians 2:14, ‘Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God.’ (You can hear the song and watch a rather dated video of it here.)
It’s probably rather obvious why I liked that song so much; children seem to have a natural talent for both complaining and arguing. As a parent this song came in handy to remind my kids of the Bible’s position on a negative attitude.
But complaining and arguing isn’t a habit exclusive to childhood. Adults can easily become trapped in routines of doing exactly the same thing. Sure, we justify our complaints as ‘expressing our feelings’ or ‘venting’ and admittedly there is a time and purpose for doing exactly that. But when the negative view overtakes an attitude of thankfulness we’re losing ground.
So, how can we turn the tide and keep a reign on our perspective? The strategies are much the same for a child as for an adult.
Make a habit of saying thank you.
Respect the effort others go to that results in a positive impact in your life. Acknowledge their work, even if they are strangers to you. And tune up an attitude of thankfulness to God too.
Keep things in perspective.
Before you complain consider the alternatives to the situation you are faced with. It most likely could be worse. Or, perhaps it couldn’t, but at least it won’t last forever. Even this will pass.
Focus on something positive.
Shift your gaze from the unpleasant to the beautiful, hopeful, expectant and fresh. Live with heaven, hope and blessing within your sight. Yes, this works for even the most mundane of tasks – why gripe about cleaning the toilet when you can anticipate a cuppa in the sun?
It’s hard to argue when you have nothing to say, or when your desire to be ‘right’ is less important than your desire to honour God and the person you are with. Respect your boundaries, yes, but keep words to a minimum where possible and save a lot of wasted breath.
To stop my children from complaining I used to casually hum Philippians 2:14 over the top of their noise. I still do this today and receive grudging laughter as the tone of conversation shifts! Singing of any sort seems to be an automatic mood shifter, but praise has a double anti-negativity effect of realigning priorities like nothing else.
What about you? What have you found to be successful quelling arguments and complaining in your life?