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How to Gripe Without Being a Grouch

Faith Tyson

We all have those days when nothing seems to go right and our first instinct is to shout it to anyone with a listening ear...

You're all dressed up in your formal evening wear. The spotlights are shining. Cameras flash all around you. You step out of your (rented) limousine and sashay through the autograph-hungry admirers. You nervously practice your acceptance speech. "I'd like to thank my mother, my pastor and most of all my dog for making this all possible..."

And then you hear your name after, "The winner of this year's Oscar!" You move toward the stage to accept your Oscar, but the fantasy crumbles. There atop the trophy base is a mini trash can with a tiny Oscar the Grouch peeking out of it.

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Oscar the Grouch is a classic griper. Nothing ever goes right for him, and he lets the whole world know he's a lonely, miserable character.

Is that how the people closest to us see us? Have they secretly nominated us for an "Oscar"? A "poor me" outlook can quickly dominate our personalities. "I have to do everything." "Nobody notices or cares about what I do." "How come she gets to enjoy the services and I have to work in the nursery?" "He always gets the credit and I do all the work." If we fall into this trap we'll soon find we're as lonely and miserable as Oscar.

We all have those days when the nothing-goes-right-nobody-cares-and-I-do-everything syndrome sets in. However, it's who, what and where we take our complaints and gripes to that really matters. Follow these griping do's and don'ts to avoid becoming the next winner of the grouchy Oscar award.

Who To Gripe To

- Don't gripe to your entire congregation.
- Don't gripe to already negative or troublesome people. You'll certainly find ready listeners but no positive feedback.
- Don't gripe to people who can do nothing about your situation; you'll just waste time, energy and probably a friend.
- Do talk to God about all your gripes and negative feelings. God cares about every feeling and concern you have.
- Do let your pastor or children's ministry leadership know what's bothering you.
- Do complain to one good friend who'll listen, encourage you and pray with you. Make sure this friend can keep confidences.
- Do pray about the person who's making life difficult for you. Then go to that person and lovingly try to work out the problem. If you can't arrive at a solution, go to another person such as the pastor or your ministry coordinator.

What To Gripe About

- Don't gripe and complain about things that can't be changed or that you have no control over.
- Don't gripe and complain about people, especially those God has placed over you, unless you plan to do something about the problem. Personality conflicts hurt not only you but also those around you.
- Don't gripe or complain about things that happen because of circumstances or "once in a while" situations, such as a van breakdown.
- Do complain about issues that prohibit children or volunteers from functioning to their full potential.
- Do pray for patience and the ability to wait out certain temporary circumstances or situations. Often things will take care of themselves if given time.
- Do voice your concern about any situation where people have been offended and need to be reconciled to each other.

Where To Gripe

- Don't gripe  or complain in a public setting, such as church, a grocery store or any other place where people may overhear your "poor me" story.
- Don't gripe or complain to the pastor or other children's ministry leader just before he or she has to conduct a service or meeting.
- Don't gripe in the presence of children or young people. Remember, "little pitchers have big ears (and mouths)."
- Do accommodate others by considering the place and time.
- Do make an appointment with the person you wish to talk to. This will enable you to have an uninterrupted conversation about your concerns. Focus on solving the problem rather than attacking the person.
- Do remember you're responsible for the children you teach or work with. If they hear you griping, you may lose your "hero" status with them or negatively color their perception of Christians.

The Grouch Test

Take this test to discover what kind of griping award you deserve. Circle the answer that best describes your response.

1. You're asked at the last minute to substitute in the nursery for the fourth Sunday in a row.

You:
a. go ahead and substitute, but later encourage the nursery coordinator to create a new substitute list;
b. explode and stomp off; or
c. go ahead and substitute, but later fume about it to your spouse.

2. The senior paster recognizes all the great workers for this year's vacation Bible school but forgets your name.

You:
a. smile, but later mention to the senior pastor that you felt unappreciated by the oversight;
b. collar the senior pastor right after the service and vent your anger; or
c. think about how worthless your work must be and consider finding a new job.

3. While picking up your children from school, a parent asks why you haven't started an after-school program yet (in your already-packed program).

You:
a. talk about what a great idea it is, what staffing would be required and ask the parent to head it up;
b. complain about how much you have to do already and about the stress headaches you've been having; or
c. say that you'll start one next week.

4. Your church cuts funding for children's ministry that'll mean cutting kids' favorite activities.

You:
a. make an appointment with the church council and propose a new budget that'll keep the activities;
b. stop the chairman of the finance committee before the worship service and ask him or her to defend the new budget; or
c. do nothing.

Scoring

If you circled:

Mostly a's-You win the Diplomat award. Keep asserting yourself properly when it's time to gripe.
Mostly b's-You win the Oscar award. You need to follow the do's and don'ts of this article. Remember, there's an appropriate time, place and attitude for griping.
Mostly c's-You win the Wimp award. You need to learn to speak up. If you keep "stuffing" your griping, you risk resentment and burnout.

The Grouch's Prayer

Oh Lord, help me when I start to gripe
About those people who "aren't my type."
And when you hear me begin to say,
"They do everything just their way,"
Give me, Lord, that gentle nudge,
And help me not to hold a grudge.
You know, Lord, I'm not a saint,
So please forgive when I speak complaint.
And as you look down from heaven above,
Please flood me with accepting love.
Amen.

-Faith Tyson

Faith Tyson is a children's minister in Nebraska. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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