Miserable? Stop Complaining.

Some friends and I went snowboarding in March this past year. I had an extremely enjoyable time with it; after I learned how, of course. The first run was torturous. I fell again and again as I tried to master this stupid board that had a mind of its own; as I tried to figure out what you’re supposed to do to make this thing do what you want. It made no sense. My patient teachers would say things about shifting your weight around.

“Shift your weight to your back foot now!”

“What? How?”

Plop.

I was actually breaking a sweat in the cold mountain air of Colorado. Disturbing.

I would start moving, and all of a sudden I would start going toward something I didn’t want to hit. My response? Freak out and do a face or butt plant. Or I would just be going peacefully along and all of a sudden, like a diabolical horse, the board would catch an edge and throw me across the snow, which happened to be hard and crusty that day.

The second run was better, but John and Kevin, who took on the task of teaching me how to “steer this thing,” wanted to have some fun so they had me follow them over a bunch of moguls. That was miserable. I laughed about it about as much as they did but I think they had more fun watching me try to get up, as my board would bridge the moguls and make it difficult to get back up.

By the third run, the amount of time between falls lengthened substantially and I took my worst spills on that run because of how much speed I was picking up.

I had the brilliance of not wearing sunscreen. I don’t usually get sunburned, but sun, snow and high altitude are a brutal UV combination. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. It was mostly because I was not with the part of our group that was handing out sunscreen. The first day I didn’t wear any at all. My face was red in the evening, and a little irritable, but I didn’t think much of it.

The next day, I was planning to, but once again, I was not with the group that had the sunscreen. I went the whole forenoon without it. After lunch I managed to get some, but the damage had been done. The skin on my face felt strange and leathery. It was kind of alarming, but still not that painful.

That day and a half on the slope with out sunscreen resulted in the worst sunburn I ever had in my life. By time I got home, I was very miserable. My face had started the nasty habit of oozing fluid from various spots and it got progressively worse as the evening went on. I thought maybe a shower would help and it sort of did.

The worst part about the whole scenario was that we were going out to eat that night and, while I wanted to hang out, I didn’t really feel like doing that when my face was the color of your average fire engine and was producing enough fluid to rival a fire engine as well. (not quite) I was miserable and let the guys around me know that.

We were climbing into the car to head to the restaurant and I was complaining about my face for eleventy-third time, when my good friend John said something like, “Yeah, well maybe you should just get over it.” That’s one thing I like about John. He is honest.

It was a time of reality for me. I suddenly realized that no amount of complaining about how my face was feeling, would change it at all. In fact, it was probably making it feel worse because it’s what I was dwelling on: how terrible I felt. Admittedly, it was hard not to think about at all, but I certainly didn’t need to make it my sole focus.

I was also inflicting my miserable condition on those around me. They didn’t need to hear every two minutes how bad my face felt and how nasty the oozing was. Nothing was changing so it wasn’t even an update; it was a repeat. They were probably as tired of hearing about it as I was of the pain.

I shut up about it, and even though it didn’t stop hurting, I had a reasonably fun evening at the restaurant and the others did too because they didn’t have to hear a misery status update every several minutes.

This is not to say we shouldn’t tell others about our problems, but when we sit there and complain about it, it does nothing to help out anyone–including ourselves. We’re supposed to allow others to help us carry our burdens, but that doesn’t mean a constant dumping of sorrow and misery on our friends. They are there to help us through our problems, but not to carry them for us and hear us bellyaching about the same problems over and over.

We need to get over stuff and realize that conflict and pain are part of life and that, when difficulties show up, complaining about them does nothing to help anyone. It changes nothing, except how miserable we feel about it, and complaining only makes it worse.

If you are miserable, stop and think a little: have you been complaining, outwardly or inwardly? Complaining can just as much be an attitude or state of mind as an outward action. The only difference is that if you complain inwardly, you only make yourself miserable instead of others, which is better, but still not a good thing.

Instead, try to think of what God might be trying to teach through this. Even if you can’t figure it out, patience in suffering is a powerful testimony to the grace of God. Complaining is no testimony at all. It just makes those around you want to slap you (on the face), or put in earplugs, or ship you off to Antarctica. I hear that the penguins and seals have a higher tolerance for complainers and whiners, but don’t push your luck.

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2 comments on “Miserable? Stop Complaining.

  1. Carla Barkman says:

    Pretty sure I’ve bored people w/ my complaints before too….I somehow think if they’d only know what I’m going through they’d feel sorry for me. Good reminder!

    • rjshetler says:

      Often it’s not a conscious thing. I often notice when other people do it, but don’t think about it much when I do–unless someone tells me to quit. Everyone should have a friend like John who’s willing to tell you to when you should shut up. 🙂

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