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Coping with Complainers and Whiners

Updated on June 21, 2017
Carola Finch profile image

Carola is a Christian writer and author of three books. She writes about Christian living, the Bible, relationships, and other topics.

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Living with someone who complains all the time is like an annoying faucet that won't stop dripping. You try to tighten up the tap to no avail. You try to block the water from making a loud noise by putting a bucket under it or wrapping towels around it. You go to your bedroom in frustration and put a pillow over your head. It doesn't matter what you do, there it is - drip, drip, drip. Argh!

I have lived with people who whine and complain all the time. It ain't fun. All I would do is enter a room and a complainer would spew a barrage of negative complaints at me. I left a mess in the kitchen. The tap is not fixed and we don't have the money right now to call a plumber. Then the tap gets fixed and the whiner starts to complain about something else.

Then I go to some Christian gatherings and certain people while be whining and nitpicking about everything from the air conditioning being too cold to the length of the church service.

Complainers definitely have a negative effect on me. If I was in a positive mood when I entered a room, complaining hits me in the face - kinda like food poisoning hits my stomach. It churns away and grumbles. If the complaint is about something I did, I feel yucky. I am a bad person. I am a stupid idiot.

If a person's complaint is about something I have no control over, like financial constraints, I am frustrated. Complaining can be contagious, and put me in a negative state where I am not satisfied with anything. Sometimes complainers try to make me commiserate with them by trying to stir me up and feel as upset as they are.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing 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

Philippians 2:14–15
(ESV)

The Damage Complaining Causes

The Bible tells us to do everything without complaining and arguing. There are many reasons why complaining is damaging to ourselves and others.

Discontent: People who are always whining are very discontented with their lot in life. They have a lousy job, obnoxious teenagers, a shambles of a house, or never have enough money to satisfy them.

Bitterness: As time goes on, a root of bitterness can grow. Complainers are unhappy with what they have and they can draw us into the same attitude if we are not careful to guard against it.

Covetousness: God wants us to be thankful (Colossians 3:15), but how anyone be grateful when he or she is always grumbling and discontented? A spirit of covetousness is often at the heart of complaints. Coveting is a longing to have something that belongs to someone else. It is so wrong a ban against it is listed in the ten commandments. (Exodus 20:17) Sometimes there is a link between jealousy and covetousness. People complain out of envy because their co-worker is promoted before them or makes more money, for example.

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Grumbling can turn into a power struggle

Sometimes, complainers complain about situations that they can't manage but want to control. They complain about the weather, how little money they make, and the behavior of others. Or they are frustrated and angry because they want to be in charge at work or at home.

Perfectionists complain when their pristine house is sullied by the presence of some dirt their kids tracked in. People-pleasers also often lament that they are unappreciated and mistreated.

Sometimes grumblers try to use their complaining to change people, like a husband trying to motivate his wife to keep a cleaner house. It doesn't work. We can only control ourselves - not others.

How to Deal With Complainers

Consider whether confrontation is needed

We should definitely talk to the person if their complaining crosses the line into an assassination of our character and verbal abuse. However, if there is any chance the complainer is so angry that they strike out in physical violence, we shouldn't risk getting a punch in the nose or worse. Sometimes, we need to recognize that we are in danger and leave that situation. We must ask God for the wisdom to know what to do.

There are times that we should confront complainers, make them aware of what they are doing, and ask them to stop. In some cases, complaining is a bad habit that should be broken. The habit may be so ingrained into their being that they won't stop, but it is worth a try. Some people may actually try to change their grumbling ways.

We can expect a number of reactions when we confront a complainer. We want them to realize that their complaining is harmful and stop, but they may be in denial about it. They become defensive and hypercritical.

They may become angry and take the comments as harsh criticism and become even worse whiners. When we talk to the individual, we can get some relief from knowing that we did all we could to stop the grumbling and whining, even though our talk did not change things. We sometimes have to just leave the person in God's hands and let Him deal with the situation. He will!

Be on guard not to become a complainer

If we are not careful, we can be influenced to share the discontent and misery of grumblers with other people. It is so easy to join in and complain about everything from our bosses to our government. This is not how God wants us to live our lives.

Proverbs 15:4 says that the tongue can be nourishing, bring healing, and is like a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Complaining can be toxic to the soul. When we whine, we will feel sick at heart.

Consider whether we should limit contact with the complainer

We may have to make a decision to separate ourselves from the grumbler or isolate ourselves from too much contact. Above all, we need to keep ourselves from joining the downward spiral into negativity and sourness by keeping close to God and concentrating on positive things (Philippians 4:3).

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Use the soft answer with grumblers

The Bible says that a soft answer diffuses anger (Proverbs 15:1) We need to consider carefully how to speak to these unhappy, miserable people. Complaners and whiners should be on our prayer list.

Keep our joy

We were meant to live with joy - one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is really challenging to experience joy with a sourpuss around but it can be done. Part of this joy is feeling a sense of contentment with the wonderful blessings that God gives us (Hebrews 13:5).

When we hold on to a positive attitude, our blessed state may rub off on the worst whiners and complainers.

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  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

    "We can only control ourselves - not others." I consulted with a behaviorist about the conduct of certain women at my church; actually, I was complaining. He put my attitude toward them in perspective with this same statement. I hate complainers myself and was surprised that I had become one. You give very wise advice in your article. Thanks!