Every Lent, for the past several years, I’ve given up complaining.
Complaining is one of those things that just doesn’t seem very Christian.
Complaint is the salve of the soul, said no saint ever.
And although a fairly sufficient argument could be made that Job, one of the most famous characters in the Old Testament, was a voracious complainer he was, likewise, roundly rebuked.
By the Almighty, nonetheless.
No, complaining does no good. It solves no problems, it rights no wrongs, it moves the needle nowhere forward on anything of any value. It begets no progress.
Complaining does nothing except to make the complainant feel better, by bemoaning a situation and making it worse.
So I’m giving up complaining.
But while it can be, like I said, a soul-making process it can also be terribly hard.
Because complaining can feel good. Complaining can get out all that stuff we’ve bottled up and bothers us and it can feel great to “get it off our chest” but as Pope Francis writes “complaining never helps us find God.”
I would suggest, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that a prayer can be a kind of near-complaint. A cousin or a great uncle. Some prayers, like those groans of the soul that St. Paul writes about, are just about as near a complaint as you can get but with one enormous difference.
Prayer is action.
A complaint made to a colleague, a spouse, or even one made under a breath does nothing to spur real change. This is the difference between an action and a complaint. But a prayer in and of itself is an action because it’s directed to God.
To say, “So-and-so at work is really getting under my skin,” is a word apart from saying, “Lord, so-and-so at work is really getting under my skin.”
Because a near-complaint, directed towards God, is a kind of cry for help.
A definitive action.
And so this Lenten season as I’m tempted towards complaint—as I surely will be time and time again—it will take all the grace God can muster to help me redirect that energy towards prayer, and action.
It’ll be tough. But that’s the kind of soul-making stuff Lent was made for; to make more room for God and less room for me (and my laundry list of complaints).