I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on what I see and hear us habitually complaining about. And there’s no better way to collect complaints than just seeing what pops up around you on social media. The grievances are legion.
The freezing winter.
The latest injustices in the world.
Will this construction ever end?
Those damn ignorant Americans voting for Donald Trump.
Our complaints frame and capture one part of the picture – and it’s often a negative one. Although it captures an authentic essence of reality – it limits us from seeing the whole perspective. We only see the “bad” and not the “good”.
Also, it’s amazing how often our complaints culturally become orthodoxy. I present a counter-view and I’m flamed as a heretic.
For example, Canadians whine about the cold winter – it’s what we do. It’s who we are.
I like walking to work in the cold – it’s refreshing, it wakes me up, and the 3k walk gives me time to think, reflect or pray.
But when I come inside, if I come in smiling after embracing how beautiful the cold was outside, I often get furrowed brows and strange glances.
I could hate the cold – but living in it long enough I know it’s not all bad. It’s cruel and hard – but it also has much to teach me. The cold pushes me out of heated comfortable buildings, and force me to live in cold hard reality. Can I still be happy when I’m not warm and cozy? I can learn from the cold. But only if I let it.
However, instead of looking at things wholistically, I fall into that easy cultural orthodoxy that we create together. Winter sucks – but spring will come soon and then we’ll finally be happy again. It’s something to be tolerated and avoided, not embraced.
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to Jamestown, Colorado as the Grebel staff person for a student reading week trip. We were serving with Mennonite Disaster Service, building homes for people who lost theirs in a flood in 2013.
One of the things that struck me was a) how there were many people we interacted and volunteered with who see the world a whole lot differently than we big-city university people do, b) how relationship makes it tricky to call people ignorant or bigoted for their views, and c) that there is often a wisdom found in the other sides.
But most importantly, when we’re all working to build a house together – all these views go out the yet-to-be built window. You see kindness, hard work, patience, endurance – values not sexy in verbal appeal but deeply impactful because it gets stuff done. It doesn’t matter who lives in the city and who lives in the country, or who is from what country, or who believes what. All that matters is whether or not you will help build this flippin’ house!
I’m too critical. Western culture teaches us to be the people of the “Yes, but…”. Can’t we just enjoy things in both their simplicity and complexity? Am I doomed to be this faithless critical technological zombie for the rest of my life? Do I always need to have the “right” opinion on everything?
Can we not just be humans together? Instead of projecting from our pedestal can we not teach ourselves to get off of it?
Let’s stop complaining. Let’s stop using our spoken & typed words to oppress or judge others.
Let’s just live together.
And maybe we’ll learn that there is good in that and in whom we often only see bad.