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How do you find something that’s hidden? Today we’re going to rip the camouflage off a significant problem in each of our homes. I pray God’s Word will spread It’s revealing — and yet comforting — light into each of our hearts to help us become the Parents God wants us to be so we can help our children become the men and women He called and created them to be.
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Cool. Now, let’s start our discussion about the hidden sin in our homes. And be sure to check out our free episode notes and transcripts at TruthLoveParent.com.
Now, when I mention the topic of today’s show, most of you will likely think I did some fancy click-bait-and-switch.
That’s not what I’m doing at all. I realize that most of you will already know today’s topic is a sin and many of you may even be doing something about it.
But, what we want to do over the net three episodes is dissect each individual fruit, discover the root from which they grow, and then learn the Truth necessary to treat the problem.
Here we go: the hidden sin in our homes is complaining.
Call it complaining, griping, whining, murmuring, grumbling, or call it whatever you want . . . it’s a sin.
Now, I recognize that most of you will immediately agree with what I just said, and you’re probably wondering how I could suggest that this is a “hidden” sin. It’s seems pretty obvious when our kids whine.
Well, I believe most of it is hidden for three reasons:
1. There are many parents who don’t see anything wrong with complaining as long as the child isn’t complaining about something the parent has done.
2. It’s easy for us to see some complaining for what it is while being completely blind to others.
For example, though it may be easy to see the whining in others, we’re too often blind to our own.
Or our ear can pick up certain kinds of whining, but — even when it’s coming from the same person — we miss other kinds of whining.
3. It’s easier to address the fruit of complaining without dealing with the much more significant root of complaining.
So, with that, let’s dissect what it means to complain.
Merriam-Webster defines it as “to express grief, pain, or discontent” or “to make a formal accusation or charge.”
And I think the meaning in the Scriptures is consistent with those definitions. Some complaints are clearly sinful while other uses of the word “complaint” are acceptable.
We’re not going to deal with the positive definition in this series. These episodes aren’t going to be about legitimate, formal accusations. We’re going to discuss the sinful stuff.
So, let’s walk through some of the biblical content concerning complaining.
Though it’s not called grumbling, we’re introduced to the very first complaint in Genesis 3:12, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
We like to focus on the blame-shifting element of Adam’s failed Family Talk, but we also need to see that his blame-shifting involved complaining about his wife and what she did.
Moving on, when it comes to examples of grumbling, I think people who are familiar with the Bible immediately think of the children of Israel.
A good example is Numbers 11:1, “And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.”
As you can tell, God was not okay with their complaining.
I Corinthians 10:9-11 references these same people when it says, “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
God wanted Moses to include the excessive whining of the Jews — in part — so that we would learn how wicked it really is.
Another good New Testament handling of this topic is in Philippians 2:12-16, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”
We’ll talk more about this passage later in the series.
Jude 1:16 addresses false teachers when he says they are “grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.”
So, God is clear that grumbling, murmuring, whining, fussing, moaning, bellyaching, griping, muttering, and complaining are clearly a sin.
Now, we’re not going to really talk about “why” complaining is a sin until next time. For now, we need to at least accept that — most of the time — it’s wrong, but I want to spend the rest of our time identifying it.
Not being able to see it for what it is causes it to remain unaddressed and hidden in our homes.
According to Thrive Global, there are four different types of complaints.
They claim that “Frivolous or Recreational Complaints” are used to validate a person’s worldview or make fun of something. They use the example of someone sitting alone at their desk saying out loud “I have to work late Friday night.”
They also say that there are “Empathy Seeking Complaints.” They say the people who complain this way don’t necessarily want something to be fixed. They just want to be heard. They suggest that someone may say “‘I have to work late a second Friday night in a row,’ so [they] can hear someone else say to ‘that’s a bummer.’”
Then there’s the category of “Withholding Complaints.” Thrive Global explains that this is the “most toxic way to complain.” They argue that “when people say nothing at all and begin to harbor resentment and internalize anger [they] might start to exhibit passive aggressive behavior — or even just plain aggressive behavior. For example, ‘I have to work late a third Friday night in a row — no problem at all — happy to be here.’ When in fact the tone of voice and e-mails reveals something different.”
And, lastly, they enumerate “Action Complaints.” These people are not like the empathy seekers. They want action. They want change. The example they provide is “I have to work late a fourth Friday night in a row — what can we do different so we are not here next week?”
Psychology Today posits that there are three types of complaints.
They mention “chronic complaining” from people who never seem satisfied.
They mention “venting” which is designed to express emotional dissatisfaction. Psych Today explains “It turns out that people who vent have an agenda. They tend to be focused on themselves and their own—presumably negative—experience. By showing their anger, frustration, or disappointment, they are soliciting attention from their confidantes. They can feel validated by receiving attention and sympathy. Venters are particularly likely to discount advice and proposed solutions to their problems. They aren’t looking to solve anything; they simply want validation.”
Then they claim that last category of complaining is the best. They call it “Instrumental Complaining” and describe it as acknowledging the importance of change and possessing the desire to solve problems.
Based off these definitions, I think we would likely view our kids’ whining as venting or empathy-seeking or recreational complaints.
What’s funny is that neither Thrive Global nor Psychology Today actually categorized our family’s sinful complaining the way God does.
Do I believe that some people are just seeking validation or empathy? Yeah, sure. But, I also believe that most of the time members of our family complain they definitely want to see some change. But just because they want to see change doesn’t make their complaining inherently good.
“I don’t want to do homework,” is more often than not a sly manipulation tool to guilt the authority into not requiring homework.
“But it’s raining,” is viewed as a legitimate excuse for you to change your expectation that I have to put away the toys I left in the yard.
“I don’t like broccoli,” is more than simply venting. It’s a back-door, slanderous (often subconscious) way to try to change the status quo.
According to both of the previous sources, complaints that seek change are not bad; they’re beneficial.
And this is why — I believe — so much sinful complaining goes unnoticed in our homes . . . we obviously believe our grumbling has merit, and so, therefore, it is excused or encouraged.
The Israelites were hungry, they were thirsty, they had to wait 40 days for Moses to return from the mountain, there were giants in the land . . . whatever the complaint, they wanted something to change. They wanted food and water and for Moses to get back and to not have to run giants out of the Promised Land.
But their complaining was a sin.
Now, I’m not saying that all complaining that seeks change is a sin. We opened the show with the reality that some complaints are simply “a formal accusation or charge,” and those will always be seeking change.
We’re going to discuss next time why one kind of complaining that seeks change is bad and why another isn’t, but here’s your assignment until that time:
So, take some time to consider your children’s words. Really think about whether they please the Lord, and then take the extra step to consider what makes the whining and complaining and griping sinful.
Next time we’ll look at the root of complaining to understand exactly why God hates it so much and set our trajectory for parenting it biblically.
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Most of the time complaining is a sin, and God wants us to parent our children into the right heart attitude that complaining is no longer a temptation.
So let’s learn to do that together next time.
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