Have you ever said to someone, “Stop complaining, you sound like a broken record?” I recall saying that a couple times, and to no avail. The record just kept on playing. Looking back, I wish there would have been a needle I could have gently picked up off the broken record.
Let’s be honest. We all complain now and then, either out loud, or to ourselves in a mumbling undertone. Even when all is going well, we still look for the one bad apple in the barrel of life.
Not All Complainers Are the Same
Not all complainers are the same. There is the “sensible complainer.” This person makes his or her opinion known about things that aren’t right. Their comments will seem constructive. You hear what they say and think, “That does make sense.” The complaint is said once or twice, and usually done.
Was their brain wired to replay the complaint?
The “self-absorbed complainer” believes the world centers around them. Anything that does not go their way or displeases them is a personal affront to them, and worthy of a forceful outburst and venting of their emotions.
The “subtle complainer” takes the mild and mannerly approach. Complaints are registered in an almost apologetic way. Emotions such as disappointment and displeasure are present, but not openly expressed. They are meekly mentioned or internalized.
Then there’s the “steady-as-she-goes” complainer. This nautical phrase fits the person who sets his or her compass and sights on an issue, and relentlessly keeps returning to the same issue. The complainer may have a valid point, but it’s as if their brain has been wired to replay the same song over and over again, ad nauseam.
Steps to Picking Up the Needle
There are steps you can take to “pick up the needle.” It may be counter-intuitive, but empathize with the complainer. Sometimes it satisfies their need to be heard and appreciated. It’s also useful to redirect them, suggesting a different perspective on the reason for their complaint. Once they feel someone has listened, and there might be a different way of looking at things, they might move on to more positive things.
A more direct and honest approach can also be effective, simply addressing their tendency to complain. This approach can be risky given their propensity to complain, but they may not know they are chronically complaining and potentially alienating other people.
With Christian Love
Regardless of the approach you take, it’s important to do so in the spirit of Christian love. When someone chronically complains, the focus is on themselves, not others, and certainly not on God. Prayerfully ask the Lord to help you lift that needle off the broken record, so the complainer can listen and learn about how to be thankful, and a positive influence in their life and that of others.
Listen to God's Words
I loathe my very life; therefore, I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. (Job 10:1)
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky. (Philippians 2:14-15)
Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9)
Also read: Psalm 142:2, Job 23:2, 1 Corinthians 10:10
In the Words of Others
“The soul that gives thanks can find comfort in everything; the soul that complains can find comfort in nothing.” Hannah Whitall Smith
“The truly patient man neither complains of his hard lot nor desires to be pitied by others. He speaks of his sufferings in a natural, true, and sincere way, without murmuring, complaining, or exaggerating them.” St Francis de Sales
Think About It
Think of a chronic complainer you know. Did you or anyone confront the person about it? How and with what results?
Have you ever found yourself complaining again and again about something in your family or at work? Describe the details. Why did you continue? Did it affect you physically or emotionally?
What lessons about complaining and one’s relationship with God could you learn from Job’s experiences?