Saturday, May 11, 2019

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, May 11, 2019 - The Great American Pastime

It would seem to be baked into the fabric of American discourse to express our dissatisfaction constantly. Is complaint a useful part of our culture? What does it indicate about us? Why do we lean toward negativity as a preferred method of expression? Is that “just the way things are?” Why do most hockey enthusiast conclude fighting is a “part of the game?” How can that be? It doesn’t score any points. Certainly not with me.

Protest is a crucially important facet of our culture. We have trained ourselves to recognize things which require either improvement or reckoning and we speak up about it. It is the backbone of our democracy. And, in principle, it is a very good thing. But like all good things, one can have too much of it.

It typically goes right up my spine to listen to people complain. And it’s helpful here to note the difference between protest and complaint. I have no problem with protest. Complaining, however, rarely encourages a positive outcome. Yet that is the expressed mission of a protest. Not so for complaint. While I can be in support of protest, listening to people endlessly complain does not motivate me to help discover a solution for them.

There are various types of complainers. Among the list are venters, sympathy seekers and chronic complainers. Each has its own inner emotional issues which are attempting to find a solution through the act of verbalizing their dissatisfaction. We all do it. But check your motives. As well, be certain your complaints are being heard by those in a position to do something constructive with them.

How often do we complain to people who are in no position to solve the problem? Do they deserve to be subjected to us? And what do we do about the complaints we have properly directed yet still find no solution? Do we give up or do we keep bringing our protest higher?

The bottom line is self respect. How much do we each possess? If one has enough self-respect, they are strong enough to speak truth to power while remaining both focused and tenacious. They refuse to allow their emotions to dictate their actions.

Without sufficient self-respect, we’re simply not strong enough to complain to the proper sources. We become too passively aggressive in our methods. We avoid the specific confrontations necessary to ultimately find our peace. We subject our friends and loved ones to endless diatribes for the purpose of either soliciting emotional support or winning a contest of woes. The most miserable wins. But still everyone loses.

Complaining is bad for your brain. It erodes your hippocampus and reinforces thought patterns which only serve to further highlight the failures around us rather than the solutions. What color is your highlighter? And what do you highlight with it?

Do your best not to encourage the constant complaining of others anymore than we should subject others to our own complaints. It’s good to be one who listens. It’s good to have a friend to talk to. But are you asking them for the same advice or complaining about the same problem over and over? That’s torture in my book.

The spiritual principle of non-resistance is to recognize that the only thing over which we have any control is our own emotional state. Many would disagree, of course. But in the way I mean it, they are wrong. We are responsible for our own joy and the recovery from our own sorrow. We are not supposed to be reinforcing negativity in our hearts and minds. We are designed to be clever enough to rise above them. We are created to exist in community with others for the purpose of together raising the water in the harbor so that all the boats go up.

Have compassion for those who complain excessively and gently encourage them to seek solutions rather than merely new adjectives for the same old problems. In the process of encouraging others to find solutions for themselves you will likely discover some of your own. Listen to yourself with gentleness and ponder if the words you speak are polluting your heart with anger or filling it with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It is largely in how we approach an issue which determines our relationship to it.

Seek peace amid the complaints of others. Find a peaceful island for yourself and pray for those who only know one way. They are trapped in a quagmire of their own making. Do not feel that you must subject yourself to their negativity, but also hold no animosity for them. Love them from a distance if you must. But love them just the same. And while you’re at it, love yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment