Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Would you like some cheese with that whine?

Posted in Christianity by Kathy on January 21, 2008

People don’t want to get better. They want a solution to their problems that does not require action or change on their part. They want the world to change so that they will feel better, without actually changing themselves so that they will feel better. I know that most people are just venting most of the time, when they are complaining, but that is wasted energy. I’ve tried it, and while it feels better for a little while, it always makes me feel worse afterwards. You relieve your feelings, only to find that they grow stronger. It’s as if talking about the petty problems puts a magnifying glass to the problems, and makes them appear bigger than they are. You just go over and over and over in your mind how this problem is affecting you, and then you think of more and more and more ways that your life would be so much better if only this thing were different, which makes how your life is now seem worse and worse and worse. But I daresay that if this one problem were solved, you’d find plenty of other problems to complain about just as bitterly.

It is not fun to be around people who complain all the time. For some people, that is their form of communication–they can’t just tell how they went shopping, they have to complain about the drive to the mall, the traffic there, the rude salesclerk, and the high price of clothes. They need to change that. It is increasing the bitterness and discontent in their own lives, to focus so much on how these little things irritate. Yes, traffic is irritating, but what can you really do about it? As the Serenity Prayer goes, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” You cannot change how stupidly or aggressively other people drive, but you can change how you drive, and ensure that you are not adding to the stupidity and aggression of traffic. When you focus on these people and their driving habits, you are actually mentally cataloguing them, and making it easier for you to react in anger.

Some things that affect you are other people’s sins; and I’m not saying that you don’t have the right to feel put-upon in these situations. But what you do about it and how you act are more important. You cannot change other people; you can change yourself. It just takes work–probably more hard work than you’re used to doing.

For example, one of my problems whenever I go to my mom’s is that she always has sweet things to eat–my “Achilles’ heel” in dieting–I love sweets. It is very easy for me to gripe and complain to her that she always makes all this good and fattening stuff….but the truth is that everything that I eat is put into my mouth by my own hand. It’s easier for me to complain about how she is sabotaging my diet plan than to see that I am the one who is actually the culprit, and that I need to exercise some self-control and not eat the cookies and candy and cake. (Although, I will say that the last time I went to my mom’s, I did not eat anything, so I can control myself. It just takes great effort.)

People want stuff quick and easy–that’s why they participate in get-rich-quick schemes, take diet pills or have surgery to lose weight, and complain about their problems instead of changing their attitudes towards their problems or making their problems go away. People don’t want to work hard for their money; they don’t want to work hard to attain and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle; and they don’t want to do the hard work of changing themselves or their circumstances to improve their lives. They are focused on how their spouses need to change, their moms need to change, their bosses need to change, their kids need to change, strangers on the street need to change….. Instead of focusing on how they can change to meet the world as it is and not just survive, but thrive!

Complaining is easy; changing yourself is hard; changing others, however, is impossible.

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