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Complaint Department That Way –> (200 miles). A Brief Meditation on our Tendency to Complain

December 11, 2011

It is amazing how easily and quickly we complain. Although I think this tendency is probably ingrained in the fallen version of our human nature, I think in modern times we have become the biggest complainers of all.

This is largely because we have come to expect that everything is supposed to be peachy and work instantly. And if it does not we are not only indignant, some of us even talk of lawsuits. Let the slightest thing go wrong, and we are so easily sullen and resentful, “How dare I have to suffer inconvenience, or wait, or that something is not in immediate supply.” Our high expectations easily breed resentment and anger.

I suppose in some ways it is just silly, but the more embarrassing and even dark aspect of it is when we compare the trivial things we have to suffer in the modern West, to the real suffering of others. While I vent over the fact that I had to reboot my stupid computer (again!), there is a very poor woman in a war-torn region wondering which end of the potato she and her children will have for lunch, and which end for dinner, and that is all they have. I wince and in my pathetic lack of patience and cry out, “Lord make me more grateful and generous!”

St. Paul, in yesterday’s (Sunday) epistle links gratitude and joy: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks (1 Thess 5:16). Paul said something similar is Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:4-7)

It’s just so important to cultivate a deep gratitude to God for all that we have. We are so very blessed. It is just downright silly and embarrassing how quickly we complain. And because we are ungrateful, our hearts lose their joy, we become negative, sullen, bored and just plain irritating. Would that we would cultivate gratitude more, we might be a more joyful culture, appreciative of live.

When I, like most children, would complain my father would often say to me, “Listen, you’re just spoiled. You better thank your lucky stars you weren’t born a hundred years ago. In the old days things were tough all over!” And frankly, they were tough, (and still are in many parts of the world). Before 1900, the things we take wholly for granted, and would not dream of living without, were all but unknown: hot and cold running water, indoor toilets, electricity, air conditioning, cars, spacious homes, lots of privacy, telephones, T.Vs, radios, and every form of electronic gadgetry.

We are blessed beyond measure. Again, as my father often said, “We don’t know how good we have it.”

In recent years the Lord has really put it on my heart to be more grateful. I spend a greater part of my personal prayer just resting in gratitude for God’s graces, and the endless blessings he bestows. Such a prayer discipline not only gives me greater joy, but has also helped me to be more generous and concerned for the poor. God has been so good to me and I have much for which to be grateful.

Somehow I am sure my earthly father, now deceased, would be pleased to hear this. One of his life-lessons has really struck home with me. 21st century America has its annoyances, but they are nothing like what our ancestors endured, neither are they close to the burdens others in this world currently endure. For all our blessings, we ought to give thanks, sing praise, and share generously with those who have real burdens, things really worth complaining about.

This video is a wonderfully funny video by a comedian who laughs with us at our tendency to complain about the littlest things in the presence of miracles. You may have seen the video (it has 8 million hits) but I have taken it here and edited out a few (mild) profanities. I hope you’ll have time to watch this brief video, it’s a real hoot, with a powerful message, as a mirror, of sorts, is held up before us.

Filed in: Faith • Tags: ,

Comments (13)

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  1. susanna says:

    Hilarious and so true. Even old folks – “I have to be at that hospital at 6 a.m.! With no breakfast!” Yeah, but you’re going to walk out the door with a new hip, while the rest of you is still 85. 😮

  2. Cynthia BC says:

    This bit of holiday humor always makes the rounds among HR professionals this time of year. It’s a “classic” for us because we often are expected to respond to every complaint. The original author is unknown.

    ************************

    Subject: The Office Party

    FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
    TO: Everyone
    RE: Christmas Party
    DATE: December 1

    I’m happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23, starting at noon in the banquet room at Luigi’s Open Pit Barbecue. No-host bar, but plenty of eggnog! We’ll have a small band playing traditional carols…feel free to sing along. And don’t Be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 2
    RE: Christmas Party

    In no way was yesterday’s memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Hanukkah is an important holiday which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on we’re calling it our “Holiday Party.” The same policy applies to employees who are celebrating Kwanzaa at this time.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 3
    RE: Holiday Party

    Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table … you didn’t sign your name. I’m happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads “AA Only” you wouldn’t be anonymous anymore. How am I supposed to handle this? Somebody?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 7
    RE: Holiday Party

    What a diverse company we are! I had no idea that December 2 begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating, drinking and sex during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees’ beliefs. Perhaps Luigi’s can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party – the days are so short this time of year – or else package everything for take-home in little foil swans. Will that work? Meanwhile, I’ve arranged for members of Overeaters Anonymous to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the restrooms. Did I miss anything?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 8
    RE: Holiday Party

    So December 22 marks the Winter Solstice…what do you expect me to do, a tap-dance on your heads? Fire regulations at Luigi’s prohibit the burning of sage by our “earth-based Goddess-worshipping” employees, but we’ll try to accommodate your shamanic drumming circle during the band’s breaks. Okay???

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
    Date: December 9
    RE: Holiday Party

    People, people, nothing sinister was intended by having our CEO dress up like Santa Claus! Even if the anagram of “Santa” does happen to be “Satan,” there is no evil connotation to our own “little man in a red suit.” It’s a tradition, folks, like sugar shock at Halloween or family feuds over the Thanksgiving turkey or broken hearts on Valentine’s Day. Could we lighten up?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    FROM: Pat Lewis, Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 10
    RE: Holiday Party

    Vegetarians!?!?!? I’ve had it with you people!!! We’re going to keep this party at Luigi’s Open Pit Barbecue whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the “grill of death,” as you so quaintly put it, and you’ll get your freaking salad bar, including hydroponic tomatoes. But you know, they have feelings too. Tomatoes scream when you slice them. I’ve heard them scream. I’m hearing them scream right now!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    FROM: Teri Bishops, Acting Human Resources Director
    DATE: December 14
    RE: Pat Lewis and Holiday Party

    I’m sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pat Lewis a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness and I’ll continue to forward Your cards to her at the sanatorium.

    In the meantime, management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd off with full pay.

    We hope that this change does not offend anyone

  3. Gerry says:

    Great story! I’m reminded of this constantly with my kids when I tell them they need to do the dishes. All that is required is loading a few dishes in a dishwasher, putting in a little soap, and pressing a button. And they whine about that. I tell them when I was a kid we had to wash all the dishes by hand, and there were 7 of us, so lots of dishes. I find that following the sage words of your father is a very good thing. We have it very easy in this life now.

  4. Rosita says:

    Love the your father’s words of wisdom. My dad would always say (and I now use it on my children), “If that is the most unfair thing that ever happens to you in your life, you should consider yourself very lucky.”

  5. Mary W says:

    my only complaint is that ONLY about ten trillion good things happened to me today- Gee Whiz! whats up with that?

  6. Peter Wolczuk says:

    I’m not allowed to tell you whether or not I’m the one who spoke on behalf of the Alcoholics Anonymous employees but I do feel that complaining has a number of aspects. For instance – a subtle form of boasting; “That job was so tough and you just can’t imagine how I had to rush – working non stop through lunch – and, yet somehow, pay enough attention to detail so that haste Did Not make waste. How heartless of them to give it to me without any assistant to do the legwork. Good thing they did give it to me though because anyone else in this #@*^X# crew would have failed for sure.”

  7. Cynthia BC says:

    Oh, speaking of 1900, remember that series on PBS? http://www.pbs.org/wnet/1900house/about-series/index.html In the same vein they also had Frontier House and Colonial House.

    Watching the series not only gives one an appreciation for modern conveniences, but also thoroughly dispells any romantic notion one may have about living in an earlier era.

  8. Daniel Harrigan says:

    My brother and I would tell my Dad he was soooo mean. We thought that would really guilt him into being lenient. Instead, he told us “I get meaner as you get older.” My brother and I just looked at eachother as if…He gets meaner..no way. We just shut up after that. I miss you Dad, Rest in Peace. You were a real man with a golden heart. You son.

  9. Lord Keynes says:

    What peeves me is not what I don’t have, I have plenty.

    What peeves me is that I see a force approaching rapidly that will end of all this plenty. Destroyed for no good reason….

    Party over! Back to the future (1700s future, that is).

    The massive debt of the US Gov’t, and the debauching of the currency necessary to “pay” the debt, will complete destroy our economy, and the society that rests on that economy.

    Nothing lasts forever, but why do I have to be in the generation that will pay the price? It’s so unfair : – )

  10. TeaPot562 says:

    Our youngest daughter would comment, after a complaint about some relatively trivial problem, “If that’s the worst thing that happens to you today, it will be a pretty good day!”

    Brain cancer took her out of this life on June 28, 2011, just two months before her 45th birthday.
    I miss her.
    TeaPot562

  11. Anthony S. Layne says:

    What’s this comedian’s name? This is such a great reminder! Especially since he’s about my age and he remembers things I grew up with.

    I can remember writing checks for cash, and rotary phones (I can remember, when I was six, when we moved into the house I grew up in, and I was delighted to discover we would have the “Princess” phones Bell now had with PUSH-BUTTONS!). You don’t like MS Word? Try producing a report on a Selectric typewriter! Do you remember the first time you listened to a song on the radio in stereo? Or the miracle of the cassette tape? The wars over which was the better format — VHS or Betamax? The first mobile phones that were as big as Army walkie-talkies (and that was their only app — no camera, no GPS, no Angry Birds)? Speaking of GPS, does anyone remember keeping a glove box full of maps that you could only re-fold differently?

    Modern society does have quite a few problems, and I write about them almost every day, but I needed this reminder of some of the wonderful things we now take for granted. Thank you so much, Monsignor!

    • Shan Gill says:

      Anthony S. Layne – yup, I recall them all. When I was very young, lived in rural Montana and shared a party line with a number of neighbors. We didn’t get a rotary phone until approximately 1960 – until then it was a hand crank ringer using longs and shorts. Everybody on the line knew who was being called. Off line calls were routed through the operator – a single long. When too many people picked up their phones to listen-in to other folks’ conversations, the volume would drop and it was hard to hear the other party.

      No seat belts, no radial tires, leaded gasoline, kids (as young as 6 and 7) worked the family farms running tractors and combines. When I was in third grade, one of my classmates rode his new Honda to school and brought his .30-06 along because he was leaving at lunchtime to go deer hunting. The rifle club regularly brought their .22 rifles on the school bus.

      It was definitely a different world.

  12. Cynthia BC says:

    I’ve considered getting one of these for my 10yo daughter…however I think she’d wear it out!

    http://www.complaintfreeworld.biz/