A much younger acquaintance presented a very amusing explanation for refusing to marry someone. She said the prospective groom, who is otherwise kind-hearted and has no vices, unfortunately has a complaining nature that can be very annoying at times. He complains about anything under the sun if it does not happen the way he expects it to be. So she came down to the conclusion that she could not spend her entire life with an individual who she would have to pacify 24/7 or, in her words, someone she would “have to babysit forever”.
Whether consciously or unknowingly, we all have the tendency to complain for some reason or another. It’s just the degree that varies. Some complain more than the rest. If you do not fall into this category and can never think of a single instance when you have complained, your name needs to be inscribed for posterity to remember you as that revered saint who was always happy with life!
The constant negativity that runs in some people makes them chronic complainers. Complaining becomes their second nature; they are dissatisfied even with the minutest of things that do not work the way they want. At the slightest pretext, they pour out their whining to others as they look for sympathy and emotional validation.
Not all complaints are unjustified. For instance, if you see any divisions or prejudices in society which are based on unfair practices, you have a valid reason to complain against them. I would say that you can induct yourself into the foolish club if you do not raise your voice against any injustice done to you and let others use you as a door mat. Also, since we are human, it’s natural that we might complain when we experience any hurt, physical or emotional. What essentially is my point is that it is irritating when the complaint is registered for no rhyme or reason at the drop of a hat.
The psychology of complaining is worth exploring. There is a growing body of research that addresses different parameters. Psychologists have categorized complaining into many groups based on a variety of characteristics. Dr. Lisa Juliano, in her article “No One Likes a Complainer: Here’s Why”, talks about the different types. The active effective complaint is one when a person is totally confident that a situation or an event is not in compliance with correct norms and he or she complains to get the desired results. Then there is venting: when one lets out the emotions brewing inside him to let go of that weight from his chest. Sharing justified concerns with others may pave the way for a brainstorming session that can yield positive outcomes. But when one vents out his frustration on a continuous basis and his objections carry less weight, he is branded as a whiner. Finally, there is something called the ineffective complaint. In this case, what essentially pokes one to complain is when they know that they have no control over the situation but through complaining seek to achieve a false feeling of control over the state of affairs.
The founder of the non-profit organization “A Complaint Free World”, Will Bowen has been instrumental in bringing about a positive transformation in people from over a hundred countries. While he was the lead minister in One Community Spiritual Center in Kansas City, Missouri, he conceived a brilliant idea as a tool to steer people away from complaining. Calling it a “non-religious human transformation movement”, he challenged himself and his congregation to go 21 days without complaining. To monitor their success in eliminating the habit, he suggested his congregation use purple bracelets. The idea exploded, and more than 11 million people around the world took up the challenge.
In no way do I claim to be well versed in theology, but something said in the Bhagawad Gita has always struck a chord with me. One of the most sacred Hindu scriptures, the Gita offers an invaluable interpretation about complaining. With his infinite wisdom, Lord Krishna tells Arjun that we complain and grumble about situations because what we see before us is an incomplete picture. We blame others for our misery and wish to run away from the scene. But we fail to realize that the world created by God is perfect in every way, and that there is a divine purpose behind all good and bad situations. They come in the cycle of our existence so that we evolve spiritually and attain the level of perfection. So in the words of Lord Krishna, whoever understands this secret of the universe bravely encounters adversities and faces them with a serene and tranquil temperament.
A quote from Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture drives home a beautiful message: “If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out… Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals.”
So can we follow any strategy that can deter us from complaining? Some things are easier said than done. It is easier to preach than to practice. As much as we may give those sermons to others, we tend to fall prey to the complaining syndrome. To refrain from it, one needs to have strong determination and consistent effort. A big chunk of our frustrations spring from our soured interactions with other people. In this regard, fostering a positive attitude is the key. It can be detrimental if we jump into conclusions and form our opinions without giving the person in question the benefit of the doubt. Every human being needs to learn to adapt to changes and accommodate. One needs to give up that rigid mindset that simply refuses to adjust.
It will definitely help if we count our blessings and be thankful for the good things we have. Perhaps we would end up complaining less if we reflect on the fact that we are in a much better state than a whole multitude of people and could have been in a much worse state than what we are complaining about. To be happy does not mean a state where everything is perfect; it means that a person is ready to look beyond the imperfections. The choice is ours, so we can stop or at least minimize those moans and groans to make our journey of life a blissful one!