January 2, 2011
DAY 2: Definitions
I looked up the definition of "complain" in Webster's Dictionary.
COMPLAIN: (1) To claim or express pain, displeasure, etc.; (2) To find fault; declare annoyance; (3) To make an accusation; bring a formal charge
So, I have failed miserably on my fast from complaining. I did every single one of these things before I even finished breakfast this morning. I argued with my husband, complained about my physical body, declared annoyance about the noise level in my home, and accused my husband of being inconsiderate. I went back to bed after all that!
The good news is that I didn't go back to bed because I wanted to run away and hide. He was right there next to me. In our one-bedroom house, the bedroom can sometimes be the only place to find quiet. He was having his quiet time, and I decided that it would be a good idea for me to be quiet, too.
I have had a lot of input and not a lot of time for quiet over these past two holiday weeks. I'm used to having at least a 30 minutes each day of silence, where I don't read, write, talk, or actively process my thoughts. I haven't had time for that in over a week, and I was in sore need of it this morning. I spent the first 20 minutes trying to quiet my racing mind, and though I wasn't able to settle down as much as I usually can, it was definitely a good start. Eventually, I fell asleep. And my wonderful husband let me just stay there and sleep.
Surely, you must be thinking, she did better with it all once she got up! I WISH!
I felt a little better, but I'm afraid I failed once again in the No Complaining Department. I'll tell you about that in just a minute. First, let's return to our definition again. We are told not to comment on our pain and displeasure; not to find fault or declare our annoyances; and not to make accusations or bring charges against someone.
My first big question when I read this definition was--Aren't we supposed to be honest with people about how we're feeling? I'm not supposed to pretend that I'm not hurting if I really am, RIGHT? Surely I'm allowed to feel my feelings and express them. These questions led me to think that perhaps complaining is something other than transparency and honesty. I'm not feeling guilty about sharing my struggles with you each day, so how is that different from complaining?
I realized that the command not to complain couldn't be not saying anything negative, but rather how I say it, to whom I say it, and for what purpose I'm saying it. Here's where my second failure comes into play. The first thing I said to my husband when I came out of the bedroom after he graciously let me sleep for at least an hour was, "I could just sleep all day long."
Yep...that was complaining. I was expressing my displeasure and discomfort. Could I have said that to him without it being complaining? Yes, I think I could have, but I know I didn't. I was busted! Of course, I am owning it now, but I did not own it then which led me to then fall into the next part of the definition, showing annoyance and making accusations. Boy, if I wasn't used to my failures by now and if I didn't understand that making mistakes is the best way to learn something, I would be hanging my head in shame by now!
You see, I wasn't saying it to ask for help. Rather, I was saying it so I didn't have to say, "Gee, honey, I don't think I'm going to have the energy to clean the kitchen today," or "Honey, would it be all right if I rested today? I may not get around to the usual tasks and I may need extra help with the kids, but I've had a long week and I really need some time to rest and reconnect with God."
Instead, I was putting on him the expectation that my one statement of complaint would elicit a caring response from him so that it could be his idea to give me a day off rather than it being my responsibility to make myself vulnerable and express my needs. Want to know what he said back to me?
"Today is a perfect day for a walk. Perhaps we should all go out for a walk."
I'm counting on you as women who live in this culture with me to understand that this response made me furious! It was as though he didn't even hear me! That was not the response I was hoping for, and for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon I had to wrestle with my own bad habit of complaining. I did make a good choice not to respond in that moment. I didn't want to have another argument today, so I just didn't say anything.
Of course, my head was filled with negative thoughts about how he was so inconsiderate to suggest a walk instead of that I go ahead and go back to bed. And later when he brought it up again, I was a little bit more honest. I told him that I was weighing the value of going for a family walk or soaking up the silence that I really needed while everyone else was out for a walk. He tried to convince me that a walk would be the best choice, and I went off on him again. UGH!
I felt trapped, as though doing what I knew I needed would disappoint him and therefore it would be better for all of us if I just did what he wanted. But I was angry. I didn't really feel like I had a choice at all. Once again, I took the passive-aggressive approach and told him that I didn't appreciate not having a real choice in the matter. Then I proceeded not to do anything to get myself ready for going outside. It was clear to both of us that I wasn't going, but it wasn't until everyone but me was dressed for the cold that he said, "So, I guess that means you're not going?" that I admitted that, "No, I just don't want to go."
I wonder what would have happened if I had been more clear, more honest, and more vulnerable in my need with my very first words to him after my rest? Why couldn't I do that?
Why do I skirt around subjects instead of really telling him how I feel? Why do I expect that my husband is inconsiderate if he asks me a question from his perspective rather than putting himself in my shoes and asking from my perspective? Why do I expect that anyone else in my home is responsible for taking care of me when I need to set boundaries for myself?
I'm afraid we are all going to be left with these unanswered questions today, but I am very glad that I stayed behind at home in the silence. It was exactly what I needed. Here's to hoping that tomorrow is another day of great learning and even some victory!
Peace & Joy,
P.S. Imagine my surprise when, in search of a photo for this post, I came across this amazing article about this very topic. If you click on my image credit link below, you can read it to and shake your head in awe and wonder about our God who so gently and effectively leads us!
Posted by A Word of Art (Angela)