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If you are involved in any social media, you inevitably have run into followers or friends who chronically complain. You may have felt so inclined to “hide” them from your newsfeed due to the sheer negativity that they permeate.
Social media has made it easy to avoid these complainers with the “unfollow” feature, but what happens when you see this person day to day? Even worse, you can’t exactly “unfollow” your spouse if he or she happens to be a negative Nelly.
Maybe even worse still, what if YOU are the chronic complainer in your relationships?
Next in our series on anger and marriage, we are addressing overgeneralization.
Overgeneralization is making one, single event into an unbearable situation. Sometimes these are thoughts, other times these thoughts are expressed out loud.
Examples would be: “Church is always boring.” “No one likes me at school.” “I’m always the butt of jokes.” “Everybody thinks I’m stupid.”
Examples for a married couple could be: “You never listens to me.” “You always leave me to take care of the kids and clean the house.”
Overgeneralization is a negative thinking habit. Many people who experience depression and/or anxiety suffer from this “thought trap.”
Thought traps are like a cassette tape (yeah, those things that existed back in the 80s, hello fellow children of the 80s!!!) that loops over and over again in your mind. It’s like someone hits the “repeat” button repeatedly—and the person hitting that repeat button is you.
How Can I Overcome Being A Chronic Complainer?
So what is a chronic complainer to do? Let’s take a look at complaining in the Bible.
Complainers In The Bible
As the Israelites trekked through the desert, the Lord rained down manna from heaven. This was God-made food, readily available, at their feet.
After a few days of God-made food, readily available, at their feet, the Israelites tired of it and complained. Notice I didn’t start the story off with “The Israelites got tired of manna and complained.”
The Israelites lost their focus on God and focused on themselves. Through the difficulties of being away from their homeland and being enslaved you could say they had some deep-seeded soul wounds.
We all have been hurt by others; in one way or another. How we respond to it speaks to our thought life and our character. Bitterness and resentment, like the Israelites mentioned above, could lead someone to respond with complaining.
Later, in the New Testament you will find that Jesus was often tested by complainers. Never did He validate the behavior.
Jesus was an awesome teacher. He always turned a complaint into a learning opportunity. When someone complained, He responded in a way that would force the complainer to look at his heart. In essence, He helped the complainers expose the ugly parts of their hearts.
What Can I Do With These Ugly Parts of My Heart?
If you’re starting to feel like a well-fed, complaining Israelite as you listen to this, take heart. The great thing about our God is that He provides.
One of the most powerful tools He has created for us is prayer. When we pray His will, it’s like we have a direct line to the boss. Even better, remember this: When we accept Jesus, we accept that He has already saved us. We’re already seated with Him.
When you pray, you are praying from a position of victory in the heavens. Ask Him about the areas in your life that you need to be open for Him to work on.
GRATITUDE IS KEY!
As mentioned above, this is about His will, not our own. He wants us recognize how and what He has provided for us. It is very difficult to chronically complain if you chronically rejoice through gratitude.
When you rejoice through gratitude, you are speaking truth into the situation. Many times, we get very narrow-minded when we view our situation. We have trouble seeing the “God view”. Speaking gratitude helps to have a more eternal viewpoint.
How To Address a Negative Spouse
As we are rejoicing with gratitude to ourselves, we need to continue this with our negative spouse. When that spouse is negative, we need to be assertive and counter that negativity with truth in a loving manner.
Here’s an example. You have a flat tire on the highway on your way to church. Your negative spouse may say something like, “Things always happen to me at the worse time. Now, I have to change a tire in my good clothes.”
You could let that comment go and not respond, which would be passive. Or you could be assertive and say something like, “Although it may be inconvenient to change a tire in good clothes, I sure am glad that this happened with both of us here…or I am glad this didn’t happen on the interstate…or I am glad this didn’t happen on the way to the hospital…or I sure am glad that this didn’t happen yesterday when it was raining, etc.”
Hopefully, you get the point. There are many ways to view the situation as positive. It just may take some creativity and intentionality to do it.
Paul: A Character Study
As we’ve mentioned in our previous episodes on anger and marriage, Paul is a great example to fashion our lives after. He withstood a great deal of trials being imprisoned, flogged, mocked, and endured all sorts of persecution. Yet the man ALWAYS recognized God’s blessing and was grateful for His salvation.
If we lived out our salvation daily, what would that look like? I think it would mean we should often have gratitude and grace on our lips.