I know it has been a while since I have written on here, so I am going to try to get back into the habit of writing again.
Since this is the month of Thanksgiving, I thought of this brilliant idea to be intentionally thankful for something each day. I wrote up a thankful Facebook post and pressed, "Post." Feeling rather proud of myself for thinking of such a good idea, I started scrolling down my newsfeed to see what was going on in the world, considering I haven't been on Facebook in a while. What I discovered was that my "original idea" wasn't all that original. After the sixth post about being thankful this month for something new each day, I was humbled pretty quickly. *sigh* God always has a way of doing that to me.
Don't get me wrong: I honestly didn't write that post to get attention or start a trend. I legitimately feel God telling me I should be thankful this month for something new each day; to really dwell on and appreciate whatever comes to my mind.
I think that this sudden feeling of thankfulness is the result of two things in my life:
First, God has been insanely blessing me since I have graduated. I feel like I have done absolutely nothing to deserve the wonderful treatment I have been getting from people. People at my church and my job have been so overwhelmingly friendly to me. God has been blessing my ministry. All of my bills have been covered. I am going to grad school. I have a beautiful girlfriend who lives only two minutes away! My life could not be better at this point. And there is nothing I have done to deserve it. I haven't worked hard to get to where I am. (I mean, I have worked hard, but my hard work doesn't correlate to people's nice behavior or my girlfriend being so close.) I have simply been given so many wonderful gifts that I do not deserve.
Secondly, a resurgence of complaining has seemed to arise recently. I don't know if complaining has actually increased in the past few weeks or if I have become more sensitive to the already existent complaints, but either way, I am hearing it more now than I did a few weeks ago.
The act of complaining has had a unique experience in my life. I understand its necessity at times, but I also believe that it is unproductive and more harmful than good. I have done my fair share of complaining, but every time I do, I can always hear God in the back of my mind, raising his eyebrow, stating, "Really? You think you deserve better? Do you realize what I go through each day?" I'm definitely not perfect in this respect. By all means, I complain every day; many times I do not realize that I am doing it until I hear that still, small voice in the back of my mind. For some reason, I am extra sensitive to it, especially from others.
Most complaints I have heard involve health and jobs. From these, I determined what bugs me about complaining: unproductiveness.
Let's look at jobs for a minute. I am very thankful for the jobs I have right now, and I will be the first to admit that God has insanely blessed me in this area. I do understand not everyone is blessed in this way. Some people are stuck in their job, either locked in by contract for a set amount of time, or because there simply are not other jobs available. My heart goes out to these people because I have been in their shoes. Back in high school, I needed a job to help pay off my car. I took the only job I could get: a janitor at my high school. I'm sorry, I was a "sanitations engineer." As I'm sure many of you are familiar with, putting a nicer title on it doesn't make the job any more glamorous. It also doesn't stop the ridicule you get from your classmates as you walk by with a huge vacuum pack on your back carrying a long vacuum wand. I took out trash, cleaned up bathrooms, and vacuumed up junk people threw down in the hallway. I think one of my favorite discoveries was a half-eaten cheeseburger shoved in between the seats in our theater. Judging by it's texture and smell, it had been there for several weeks. It was... delightful....
Did I complain? Absolutely! I grumbled in my head everyday about stupid high schoolers and their blatant disrespect for other people's property (even though, I, too, was a high schooler). The thought crossed my mind several times to reverse the flow of the vacuum and shove the hose into the vents at the top of each locker and just let the dust and gunk flow into their belongings, but I never did. Obviously, the Holy Spirit scolded me for that one.
Through all of this wonderfully glamorous work, God was teaching me something: I am in a service job. It is MY JOB to serve others and pick up stuff after people. It is MY JOB to clean up junk left around. So... I was complaining about something I was REQUIRED to do. Where was the logic in that? Sure, it was gross, but it came with the job. Where did I get the idea that I was suddenly above this; that I deserved better? Did I really deserve better? Because I was smarter, did that make me a better person? Because I was an intellectual, did that mean that I shouldn't have to stoop so low and do the work of a "lower person"? Because I was the top of my class, did that mean people should respect me and not laugh at me as I walked by?
I was reminded of a story in the Bible that I am sure many of us are familiar with. Back in the days of the Roman empire, most everyone walked where they needed to go. Only the rich could afford transportation like horses or donkeys. Note that the roads people traveled on were the same roads that the horses and donkeys traveled on. Also note that people back then did not have boots or even shoes, but wore sandals. (Many of you already know where I am going with this, but slow down and bear with me. Really think about the implications of what I am going to say next.) On the last night Jesus was alive (before he rose again), he stooped down, took off his outer robe, and washed his disciples feet--the same feet that had been walking though the dirt, mud, and poop along the road for miles and miles. People also didn't take showers back then. They didn't have toenail clippers. They didn't have medicine for things like athletes foot or blisters. Feet back then were probably the most disgusting part of a person's body, and THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE bowed down and rubbed his hands all over their nasty feet to serve them and clean them up.
Think about it.
Did Jesus once complain? Did he once think that he was better than them? Of all people, Jesus had the right to demand this job was beneath him. He was the intellectual of all intellectuals. He was the smartest person alive (even if you don't believe him to be God, the man started a movement that altered the course of history--that's pretty intelligent to me).
This comes to my mind every time I hear a complaint. This has caused a problem for me. People will come to me complaining about their jobs like they deserve to be treated better, and I don't know what to tell them. They are seeking comfort and justification: "Yes! You do deserve more! You are worth so much more! You are smarter than your boss! You are a better worker than everyone else at your job! You are smarter than this multi-billion dollar company! You do know how to run the company better than everyone else above you!" The arrogance that filters through in the complaints rub me wrong. It makes me uncomfortable. I shift in my seat, not knowing what to say.
"Adam, can you believe they make us wear these stupid hats at work?! They don't even serve a purpose!"
Actually, they do... You work food service. By law, you are required to cover your head in preparation of food...
"Adam, the customers at the store treat me horribly! They have no respect for people in my position!"
Well, yes they don't. I really feel for you, but there isn't anything we can do about that. You're in a service job; people think they have a right to treat you like trash. It isn't right at all, but people are jerks and we can't change that, so we can either let that bug us or ignore it, treat it as part of our job, and let it go.
"Adam, can you believe they are making me go through training again!? I have been there for seven years! I know what to do!"
Yes, but it is the company's policy to retrain people each year for insurance and security reasons. It is to make sure they are covered by law, not because they think you are stupid. So, just do it and don't complain about it. It comes with the job.
"Adam, my boss treats me like crap and has no respect for me! He's also an idiot and doesn't know how to manage!"
Yeah, he's on a power trip. There isn't much we can do about it. But he is in a position of authority for a reason. He may be an idiot, he may not know how to do his job, and he may get fired. But until he is either fired or leaves, there isn't much else we can do. When his job opens up, apply for it and be an awesome boss! For now, just be the best employee you can possibly be. The moment you snap back to him is the moment you become just like him. It takes a better person to rise above ridicule and handle rejection with grace. Just look at Jesus.
"Adam, can you believe they passed me up for promotion again?! I have been there twelve years! If anyone deserves to be manager, it is me."
I'm sorry, but being at a job a certain amount of time does not entitle you to a better job. Your work ethic, friendliness, and professionalism allow your superiors to consider you for promotion. Even then you are not guaranteed you will get it. Being in a job for a long time does not mean you know everything about leadership either. Honestly, I wouldn't hire you if you worked for be because of your work ethic.
"Adam, these kids are driving me crazy! I cannot wait until the weekend when I will be free of them!"
Um... why did you go to school for education and choose a job that puts you right in the middle of little kids all the time? O.o
"Adam, can you believe that I have to keep the logo on my uniform uncovered so the customers can see it?! They came into this store, they know where they are. They don't need to see my logo to know where they are. It is a stupid rule that makes no sense."
Yes, but it is all about professionalism. It is their company policy, and no matter how stupid it may sound, that is how they do things. It doesn't matter if it makes sense; it is all about if you can follow orders and do what your superiors tell you to do. You are not the manager, you are not the CEO, so when you are, you can make the rues. Until then, you can follow them like a good employee.
In my second job, God taught me something else I alluded to above: that if I cannot change it, then there is no point in complaining about it. I worked in the Meat Department at HyVee. I would do pretty much everything. Most of the time, I closed up the meatshop at night. It was one of the most demanding jobs I have ever had, because while I was trying to clean everything off, customers would come up and want something from the meat case or want something cut up. I would have to stop everything I was doing, clean up, and get what they needed. Many nights, I would stay an extra hour or two past when I was supposed cleaning up before I could go home.
Did I complain about this? Heck yes! I grumbled to everyone I talked to about my job until God made it clear to me: Could I change the amount of customers who came in asking for stuff? No. Could I change who was scheduled that day to help me out more? No. Could I work any faster? No. So would complaining solve anything? Absolutely not.
There are some things I could change. After a while, my job got too much for me to handle, trying to balance two majors in school and my job. I couldn't change the length of my hours, I couldn't get any days off, so I changed the only thing I could: I quit. When the job got too much, rather than complain, I took action. I left.
Yet, I do know somethings we cannot change. Our health is one thing we cannot change (for the most part). I have had friends who do not get regular hours of sleep, eat only junk food, and eat that junk food in vast quantities when they do eat. Then my friends complain about not feeling well after their poor choices. In these situations, they have no right to complain because they did it to themselves. I am not talking about these poor choices when I mean health. What I mean are those who have conditions they had no control over. Diseases like Crohn's Disease, diabetes, or juvenile onset arthritis are what I am talking about. Every person I have ever met with a condition like these have never once complained about it. They deal with it because they have realized that there is nothing they can do to get rid of it. Complaining doesn't make their disease any lighter or easier to live with. Sure, they may complain sometimes when the disease flairs up and gets more difficult than normal (although I have never heard them complain about their respective diseases, but I am giving them the benefit of the doubt that they may complain when I am not around), but for the most part they deal with it. Complaining does nothing productive.
However, complaining does make us feel better.
That is probably the main reason we complain: it makes us feel better. We may feel justified, or encouraged, or relieved. I do understand that psychologically, we do need to vent. We need to blow off steam because, let's be honest, people frustrate us to no end. I am totally okay with venting, when it is appropriate and cited in the correct context.
However, psychology also shows that continual negative attitudes are actual detrimental to our physical health. Continual complaining actually makes us feel worse and may affect our physical condition. Studies have shown that stress can cause acne, digestive problems, and headaches. We need to strike a good balance between venting and complaining,
The complaints I listed above are not justified and not venting because they are not appropriate complaints. Sure, if I had a rough day and my boss was extra hateful to me or the customers were extra spiteful, then yes, I have every right to blow off some steam. But complaining about it every day is not justified. It would be like me complaining about cleaning up trash when I was a janitor--I'm complaining about something that comes with the job.
Another thing I consider when I hear complaints is the ungrateful attitude in people's voices. Rather than being thankful for having a job, or having kids, or being alive, or being thankful for whatever they are complaining about, all I hear is the horrible things that are happening. If all I hear are the bad things that are happening, then how will I know what is good? The truth is, we should be thankful that we even have a job. In my limited travels, I have seen people who don't have anything and would be thrilled to have a paying job like we have in America. But because we are Americans, we think we deserve better. We think that people should treat us like king--or at least with respect. Truth is, nobody owes us anything. We don't deserve respect. Yes, I think we should always give respect, but we don't deserve respect. We are not entitled to being treated nicely. Some will disagree with this, but that is my philosophy. I believe entitlement is one of the most dangerous traps to get ourselves into.
This is why I feel God is telling me to be thankful for something new each day. I feel I am so unworthy of everything I have been given. I am going to be thankful this month for even the little things. I pray that you will join me and find something that you are thankful for each day. If it is a person, tell them how much they mean to you. Share the love and thanksgiving around!
God bless you all and may you have an awesome month of November!
Following his call,