Safe Complaints

Maybe you’ve noticed that complaining is a fairly regular topic on my blog. Mostly that’s because it is something that I struggle with a lot and I need regular reminders that it isn’t acceptable (Phil. 2:14-15). However, another reason is because it permeates our culture. Now obviously a lot of sinful things permeate our culture, but this one seems to get by in the “not so bad” category, and so we’ve let it creep into our church culture, which is a very scary thing.

The strange thing about complaining is that we sometimes put ourselves into places where we feel safe to complain. We find a person or group of persons whom we trust, who are Christians, and we exasperatedly exclaim that we just “need to vent”, then we excuse ourselves and continue on with negative and sinful speech. The problem is, the New Testament, while it is replete with one another passages, never encourages us to complain to one another or discourage one another by constantly speaking negatively about a situation or person.

Actually, here’s what the New Testament has to say as far as how we treat and speak to one another:

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; (Romans 12:10).

Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another (Romans 14:19).

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:16).

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16)

Here, we are given positive ways that we can interact with one another; through service, love and peace. Through encouraging words, through spiritual words, through comforting and prayerful words. Not through complaining. Not by venting to an unsuspecting brother or sister who truly doesn’t need those words. Paul told us in Ephesians 4:29, Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” The only things we should ever be saying to others are words that help them–not simply words that help us.

When we start justifying safe complaining (venting), we are engendering bitterness in other people. Truly negativity is a highly contagious disease! When we openly spread our poison to others, it is only a matter of time before they become ill.

Think about the 12 spies sent to spy out the land of Canaan. 10 returned with a negative outlook, while two, Joshua and Caleb, knew that the Lord would bring them victory. Still, these 10 people brought in the negativity, and soon, it had spread throughout the entire nation.

Don’t be that person. Don’t be so naive as to think that your venting is harmless. You are planting the seeds of resentment and bitterness into your listeners’ hearts. You are allowing corrupt communication to escape your lips, which means there is something corrupt happening in your heart.

Be careful. Be careful not to let the tiny word vent seem harmless to you. Nothing positive comes from venting. It only transfers your negative disposition to someone else.

Let’s close by meditating on the words of the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:14-16:

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

Don’t give in to your temptation to vent and complain and grumble and spread negativity. It will consume you. Instead love every listener you encounter. Love them enough to only let your conduct [and words] be worthy of the gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:27).

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