“Why is everyone making my life more difficult right now? I can’t do everything.”
I spoke these negative, infectious words under my breath one afternoon, as I shoved more muddy clothes into the washing machine and returned to my messy kitchen with piles of dishes, sand on the floor, and a fridge that kept leaking a trail of water all the way into the dining room. On top of that, everyone in my family kept asking for help – more food, more time, more of me. I felt overwhelmed and consumed with negativity. Without even realizing it, a grumbling attitude had taken over, and I was barreling down a hill of negativity.
As much as I wish it weren’t true, I’m naturally a pessimist. I struggle with perfectionism and can easily get overwhelmed by messes, chaos, and demands. Many people – even those who know me well – might be surprised to hear this, because I can easily look for the good in a situation, especially when it’s about others’ lives. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always been the counselor type, people often coming to me for direction, hope, and positivity. But in my own life, especially in my private thoughts or words murmured under my breath that others are not supposed to hear, grumbling can tend to take over like a nasty virus.
What is grumbling? It’s complaining but muted. It’s subtle…so subtle that we can easily not notice it or brush it off. Personally, it shows up when I’m neck-deep in messes or chaos, waiting in lines, in a hurry, or being inconvenienced in any way.
“We’re seriously out of food again? I just went grocery shopping. I can’t keep food in this house to save my life.”
“More laundry? I just finished folding it.”
“Another mess? I just finished cleaning up.”
“Someone is calling my name again. Can’t I just have a few moments of peace?”
Reflecting on these words – all of which I’ve spoken recently – I can see clearly that “grumbling and gratitude are, for the child of God, a conflict.” (Billy Graham) The Scriptures say, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22, ESV) Life cannot thrive in a place where death is being invited. When I’m stuck in a place of grumbling and complaining, that’s exactly how I feel: Dried-up. Lifeless. Nothing to offer anyone.
Not only is it difficult to serve my children in this state, but sadly, grumbling and complaining can affect them as well. Little ears are listening and little eyes are watching, soaking up everything like a sponge. A negative attitude is extremely contagious and once unleashed, it takes over, ruining the entire day for everyone and driving us further away from unity as a family. God intends for us to live with gratefulness and joy as an expression of His love for us. Only then can we love and serve Him and others well.
If you’ve ever struggled with these issues like I have, there’s hope! Even if it was a part of our lives growing up, even if it’s infecting our daily lives, we don’t have to let it define us moving forward.
Here are some practical ways to eliminate grumbling and complaining:
● Notice it. Listen to your thoughts and the words murmured under your breath. What are the things you don’t mean for others to hear? Here is where grumbling and ungratefulness reside and take root.
● Reframe your words. We’re still going to have struggles, moments when things feel frustrating, hopeless, or out of control. But once we notice the bad attitude creeping in, we must speak truth and goodness right away! We must reframe the grumbling words with ones of gratefulness, humility, and hope. For example, instead of “Seriously? Another mess?” I can remind myself of this quote: “The messes unique to my home are a sign of a full and beautiful season of life.” (Myquillyn Smith)
● Set the tone for your day from the beginning. As I’m getting my girls dressed in the morning, I often ask, “Are we going to have a good day or a bad day?” We always answer, “Good day.” Making the conscious choice from the beginning of the day helps us intentionally live it out.
● Write it down. Have a journal or piece of paper constantly open on your kitchen counter or the space you visit most often everyday. Jot down quick phrases or words of gratefulness.
● Fill up. We are called to serve others but if we aren’t also being poured into, we end up empty and crushed, like dried bones. What fills you with joy? Do it every day. As much as I’m not a morning person, this means arising before anyone else in my home. It absolutely changes my entire day when I have this quiet time to think and fill up before anyone else needs me. Being in nature with my children also fills me up, and I’m able to handle inevitable chaos and frustrations better.
● Ask for accountability. I’ve asked my family to speak up if they hear me grumbling or complaining. In turn, we can help our children in the moment to notice their negative attitude and in a kind, encouraging way, help them to reverse it with gratefulness.
Eliminating grumbling and complaining doesn’t mean I’ll never fret or feel frustrated again.The truth is, I’m naturally bent towards sin. But I don’t accept grumbling as the undertone of my life anymore. It just means taking these feelings right away to Jesus, the giver of joy and freedom, and walking through the open door of gratitude.
“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 as you hold firmly to the word of life.” (Philippians 2:14-16, NIV)
I so desperately want to shine like stars in the sky. Will you join me?