Definition of kvetch (intransitive verb): to complain habitually, gripe.
We all know one or more kvetchers. He is the guy in the neighborhood who is always grouching about something; the gal you work with who whines about everything; the bellyachers, gripers, crabs and grumblers in our lives.
What a pain!
In my life and work, the issue needs to be addressed this way: what are we to do with the church grouch? (However, I think these principals can apply universally) Every church in which I have worked and I believe most churches in the country have at least one, and in some cases, several people who feel it their duty to complain. “The music is too loud.” “The room is too cold.” “The parking lot is full.” “The children are too noisy.” “The pastor preaches too long.” While some of these complaints may be legitimate, there are a few people who can only see the negative and are happy to communicate their disapproval to anyone who will listen. It can become a serious problem with significant ramifications if left unaddressed. Leaders do not have the luxury of overlooking the negative potential of allowing a crab to do his or her thing in the church.
Before we deal with solutions, let’s discuss a few of the intricacies of an attitude of complaining.
- Chronic complaining reveals the weakness of character. Francis Jeffrey said, “The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects.” While this is harsh, I think it is spot on. We seldom meet very successful and productive people who are grouches. Too much griping may rat you out as a weak thinker. Ouch!
- Chronic complaining annoys others. Think about it: we all know someone who, as they approach the crowd, elicits a collective but silent, “oh no, not him/her!’ There aren’t many social or organizational settings where it is fun or productive to listen to someone bellyache. The negativity is just too much sometimes, right?
- Chronic complaining discourages others. Nothing sucks the momentum out of a room like a guy who fusses about stuff. While leaders must be strong enough to value constructive criticism, we are discussing those who enjoy bringing others down to their level of doldrums. Be advised, uncontested complainers will destroy your healthy organizational climate.
- Chronic complaining makes matters worse. Like worry, complaining has no positive, results-oriented qualities. And habitual grumbling clouds the vision of people who are working hard to make things work. I personally have been distracted from important, potentially life-changing opportunities by individuals who successfully throw a wrench into the organizational machine through their moaning.
- Chronic complaining costs us relationships. If you are committed to complaining, those who have a choice will walk away from you. Family may be stuck, work associates may not have a choice, but no one wants to spend time around a crab. “Complaining is dangerous business. It can damage or even destroy your relationship with God, your relationships with other people, and even your relationship with yourself.” (Joyce Meyer)
This is why I said earlier that leaders (or family members or colleagues) can’t allow the complainer to dictate the future for others.
Now the question becomes – How should we respond? What, if anything, are we to do about chronic complainers?
Here are a few ideas:
- Remember that people are hurting. When someone spends a significant amount of time complaining, this is an indication of a deeper problem in their life. Perhaps they are ill or in pain. Maybe they are lonely or depressed. Those who have been deeply hurt by others may feel the need to deal with offense; and that can impact their relationships with others. When this is the case, we must be patient and must seek to help.
- Complaining is a good way to get attention. Think about it. There are folks who have no one to listen to them. The old adage about the squeaky wheel getting the grease has valid application here. If maladjusted people can garner attention only by grouching, they probably will grouch. While I want to say it gently, some people create their our miseries. Monica Johnson expressed it this way, “Many of our choices have led to the predicaments we are presently complaining about.” If this is the case, perhaps we shouldn’t reward the bad behavior of crabbing by listening, but instead, pay attention and give credence to them at other times. It may not work but it surely can’t hurt.
- A effective way to control others is by making them so uncomfortable and awkward that they don’t know how to respond. Chronic complainers know this. Complainers are sometimes manipulators – sometimes we’ll give in to them just to shut them up – and they know that. So, the answer? Stop giving in; stand your ground and stop enabling the complaining.
- Recognize that complaining is a spiritual problem. Complaining can reveal a lack of gratitude, insecurity about one’s condition or a desire to control the lives of others. Chronic grouches sometimes suffer from feelings of insecurity – so they live with the need for attention. The best way to get attention sometimes is by whining about something – anything. While we can’t solve the insecurities of others, we can affirm them to the point that they don’t get the response they desire from complaining.
In any case, there is something spiritually that is missing in the life of a complainer. If we recognize this and deal with it as such, solutions may be discovered.
In a brief 3 point conclusion, allow me to offer this:
- Pray for complainers. They need God’s love and grace. Rather than complaining about them (!), ask God to help them. And ask God for more grace to deal with them.
- Offer solutions. If you have the time to invest, address the issues of a complainer one by one. Sit down with them, have them document their grievances and respectfully answer them. I have shocked and disarmed a few grouches by my willingness to logically discuss their concerns. Develop solid answers and present them to them. Point by point, show them that you are sympathetic but that you insist on a solutions–oriented approach to the problems. The truth is, many chronic grouches do not want solutions – they want to complain. This approach will reveal the truth.
- If none of this works, walk away. Now, I am not talking about abandoning a spouse or neglecting a friend in need. I am talking about distancing yourself from the yuck that is involved with complaining. If you are not in a personal relationship with this person, leave. If they are a family member or if you are forced by circumstances to endure them, distance yourself by not allowing them into your head. Walk away by making yourself impervious to their negativity.
One final challenge: join me in assuming that we are one of the crabby people – just possibly. I don’t want to be that guy that people dread being around. Zig Ziglar says, “Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.” If you are the town grouch – work on it! You and I can do better!
Philippians 2:14 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” Have a positive outlook. God is good. He loves you. Live your life in a way that reveals your gratitude for all that He has done for you.