May 15, 2010

On complaining and counting blessings

“Stop complaining and count your blessings” – this sentence used to drive me crazy for a very long time, so here I am trying to figure out why.
My analytical mind does not really appreciate the concept of “either/or” – in a case where “and” fits naturally. After all, it is a multitasking era, and we live in a free country, so why not do both: “complain and count my blessings”? Being blessed with good health and unbelievable friends certainly warrants counting, but suffering financial loss, going through midlife crisis, worrying about kids, having a favorite dress ruined, or even being unable to touch your toes in a yoga class – they all cause us grief, pain or discontent. All these feelings can be freely expressed, of course (remember the free country premise we started with? ) and therefore they are perfectly legitimate reasons to complain! (According to Merriam-Webster dictionary “to complain” is “to express pain, grief or discontent”).
After a while, I realized that those who are advocating “non complaining”, especially in personal conversations, are usually just expressing their grief about having to hear the complain – complain about the complain, in this obscure way. If they could follow their own logic, they would feel blessed that another person is confiding in them and sharing her feelings – but for some reason this is not as easy as to complain and brush it off. Seriously speaking though, this intolerance to others complaining can be based on many factors: fear, that the same might happen to the non-complainer, feeling of impotence - due to inability to help, great difficulty in relating to the feeling of another, unless relating to her actual problems.
To conclude, I’d suggest – “Complain away AND count your blessings!”. I’d even advocate instituting a national holiday, say Griefgiving – with vegan meals and no parades, just a time for quite contemplation and, yes, complaining.


  1. interesting topic...not sure I completely agree but definitely worthwhile contemplating :)
    For me, there are two types of complaining, and I don't mean that they are necessarily so black and white. But I personally have hard time with unconstructive complaining, which I encounter a lot in my family :( This is when people complain without end, in order to just vent it, and not look for any solution. I just find it sooo tiring...because whatever your reply is going it obe, it will not be to be logically processed. I definitely prefer constructive one, when person recognizes that there is a problem, and is either looking for solution, or at least is able to appreciate the other's concern or advice.

  2. I hear you.
    Giving an advice, that would transpire to the other is both an art and a sience. Sometimes there is no room for an advice - but it's never obvious. It's very natural respond to a complaint form a loved one with something actionalbe, but...

    I think all complaining starts as "unconstructive" (as in irrational and sometimes illogical) - since it is an expression of a feeling, which is the opposite of rational. Then, a lot would depend on the ability of the person to process feelings and emotions and on the significance of the issue that caused the grief. For those who are blessed with the ability to do something with their grief (be it trying to heal it, mourn over it, make art out of it) the complaint will eventually evolve into what you call a constructive one, or dissolve altogether. For other, the trauma that caused complaint might be impossible to process - and thus the complaint remains in it's original state.
    I guess what I am trying to say, without delving to deep in psychology et al, a complaint is a reaction to a trauma (present, past or future) and it needs to be viewed in that context.
    Easier said than done, of course, especially when dealing with one's own family!