So… how’s has the Five C Challenge been going for you so far? I seem to be clamping my hand over my mouth quite frequently – usually after I’ve just complained about something.

Complain: to express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; find fault

My inner Control Girl really wants to complain. There’s something really gratifying about complaining, when my heart is craving control. If I refrain from complaining, how are things ever going to change? Thinks like… my husband’s driving.

We seem to do more driving together during the Christmas season. And we seem to always be running late. Sometimes I’m stressed about being late, and those are the times he drives to slow. Other times, he’s the one who’s stressed about being late, and those are the times he drives much too fast. But all the time, as we slide about on our Michigan roads, I have lots I’d like to say about my husband’s driving.

Yet my complaints have a way of squelching Christmas cheer, not spreading it. That’s why, during this Five C Challenge, I’m guarding against using complaining words.

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Filing my Complaint

Just this weekend, we were on our way somewhere when my husband sped up to pass another car. And that’s when I gasped. I told myself that it was an involuntary reaction – that the gasp had just slipped out. But the truth is, my heart had been complaining about his driving for a few miles now. And it’s my heart (not my mouth) that always forms my words – or gasps.

My husband definitely considered the gasp a complaint, because he quickly defended his driving. We have a long history, by the way, of me filing my complaints about his driving. Once, when our daughter was two, Ken made a sharp turn and she called out from her car seat with a tone of disgust, “Ken! What are you doing?” She was only repeating what she had heard her mama do dozens of times.

That was twenty years ago, and you know what I’m realizing? All of this complaining has had very little -if any- effect on my husband’s driving. Yet it’s had a great effect on our relationship, unfortunately. When I nag and point and gasp over things which (if I’m honest) aren’t putting me, or anyone else at risk, I communicate disrespect to my husband. And disrespect, powerful as it may be, does not motivate husbands or anyone else toward anything positive.

You might be thinking, “So am I never supposed to express my displeasure or disapproval?” There may be a time and place to talk to your husband, child, coworker, or someone else about a pattern problem that you’ve noticed. But reactive complaining is a control tactic – and an ineffective one, at that.

Remember that we’re removing the Five C’s from our speech during the Christmas season because we want to stop using our words to try and control it all. So how can we hit reset on our habit of complaining? It starts with our hearts.

Why am I complaining?

Next time you sense a complaint welling up in your heart, ask yourself WHY before voicing it. Why am I pointing out this fault? Why do I want to express my displeasure? What am I hoping to accomplish? I’ve found that most times I complain because I want to control something. Or I feel like I’m losing control. Complaining becomes a way to “take back the reins”. Yet, as I’ve been saying, complaining is ineffective. The more I “file my complaints”, the more the other person just rolls his eyes or tunes me out.

There is one place, however, that God wants me to voice my complaints: in His presence. Psalm 142:2 says, “I pour out my complaint before him. I tell my trouble before him.” It’s good and right for me to bring my control-craving frustrations to the One who actually is in control. By laying my complaints at His feet, I acknowledge two things: I am not in control. And He is.

But God is also honored when I choose to voice what I’m grateful for, rather than what annoys me. Psalm 69:30 says, “I will praise the name of God with a song: I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” When I praise instead of complain, I make God bigger. When I turn on worship music and sing along, I show that He is the One on the throne, not me.

Here’s what I did just today, when my husband and I were in the car again today – headed to pick up a single mom’s car. As he took the turn more sharply than I would have liked, I lifted a prayer saying, “God, you’re the One in control. I will trust you and praise you instead of trying to control my husband. Thank you that, even right now, he wants to serve you by helping this woman with her car.” Then I turned on the radio and began humming along to, “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” It was a remarkably peaceful -and even fun- ride together.

A Complaint-Free Christmas

This Christmas, let’s bless the people around us by not complaining. Even when husbands drive too fast. Or even when nobody puts their dishes in the dishwasher. Or when teenagers leave their clothes all over the floor. Or even when you step on the sixteenth lego today. Instead of complaining, try being cheerful, kind, helpful, and encouraging to those around you.

Jesus, as we celebrate you coming near, may our hearts be filled with gratitude. May we keep a mental checklist of all that You are, and all that you’ve done. May we minimize our complaints, and magnify your great name. 

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