Someone muted me on Facebook a while ago. Apparently I was 'complaining' too much. Fair enough. Obviously Facebook's algorithms were not showing the many positive, humorous and knitting posts I do.
I may complain to Facebook about this.
My complaints tend to be on the same theme: the way the world – including the church – views and treats those who are disabled.
I started to think more deeply about this complaint about my complaints.
Everywhere we go, we hear people complaining. Some politely, some rudely.
Some complain with a skillful subtlety. There are those who complain with a large dose of sarcasm or humour and others who do it with hidden meanings and cryptic words. And yes, there are those who let it all hang out on social media, often starting with the word 'Typical!'
I know some people who would proudly say they have MA-level Victor Meldrew skills in complaining, and are still working on sharpening up those skills.
Then I found myself wondering if it was true of me, and asking the questions 'Is it right to complain?' and 'Is there a Godly way to complain?'
The most proficient complainers in the Bible were the generation of Hebrew people who escaped from Egypt. Nothing was ever right, and Moses was often at the end of his tether with them – and so was God.
David complains in many of his Psalms. In Psalm 55 he even states he uttered his complaint to God three times a day.
Some of the prophets were accused of complaining too. But they were saying what God had told them to say. If you read what some of the prophets said, it wasn't just about only worshipping God and not idols, it was also about injustice in the nation. They were saying it because God told them it needed to be said.
Did Jesus complain? He certainly acknowledged difficulty – is that complaining? I've asked the question of some of my colleagues, one of whom said that 'Jesus turned the tables in the temple and shouted some very uncomplimentary things – couldn't that be classed as complaining?'
Well, maybe it could. But there's a difference. We often refer to the emotions of that incident as 'righteous anger' and sometimes, rightly or wrongly, use that as an excuse for our own anger in unfair situations.
The difference is, Jesus never reacted without a good and Godly reason. He didn't do it for his own benefit. His reaction fitted what he was reacting to – that people were dishonouring God in his temple.
Paul had plenty to complain about, and yet he said he was content with 'weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities'. In fact, he summed it up in Philippians by saying he had learned to be content in whatever situation he found himself in.
That's a tough act to follow.
So what have I learned from thinking about what the Bible says about complaining?
First, it says more about being thankful. Thankfulness tends to be a great antidote to our complaining. To quote Ann Voskamp, 'There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.'
Many of the Psalms that begin with a complaint against God will end with thankfulness. Paul, as well as providing the example of his own contentment, also tells us to be thankful.
Second, complaining is OK. But we need to complain well:
Test it for truth. Can we effect change by our complaint? And if we can't affect change will it helpfully raise awareness?
Check the facts. Have we been fair in our assessment?
Be polite. Have we badmouthed someone unnecessarily with our complaint?
So, feel free to complain –but make sure you balance it with thankfulness, and a healthy dose of kindness.
Meanwhile, I'm off to complain to Facebook about its algorithms.