Sunday, February 22, 2009

Complaining Well

I’ve been reading the odd lament psalm of late and these generally model a way of ‘complaining well,’ but they don’t always help in our practical distress--well, they could, but we’re not always ready are we?

The Bible says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing...”
–Philippians 2:14 (NIV)

The Greek word for ‘complaining,’ goggusmos a.k.a. murmuring and muttering, refers to the complaint that’s actually counterproductive to dealing with the real issues of the moment.

When Jesus went incognito to the Feast of the Tabernacles in John 7, the crowds there were engaging in ‘muttering, murmuring, [and] low and suppressed discourse’ about him--like a hushed talking behind his back.[1] This form of complaint never really gets heard--we think it will make us feel better but talking behind others’ backs never achieves that.

But, in Philippians it’s more like a complaint--the “expression of secret and sullen discontent.”[2] Dialogismon is the word for ‘arguing’ or active disputation, and this word derives from reasoning, retiocination (sic), thought, cogitation, purpose.[3]

Paul probably puts both goggusmos and dialogismon together to communicate all form of complaint whether it’s directly to the person’s face or not.

To complain well is to do so assertively, i.e. objectively, without excess emotion and to the gain of all parties involved in the conflict. Perhaps it’s also not about what we complain about, but how. And we should avoid loading up the complaint for we then tempt people to turn off to our cause altogether.

To not complain is, I think, unreasonable. We all need to complain, we just have to do it well. It’s a fine ideal to resist complaining but it’s far more about how and when we do it.

Whatever we do, we must complain well; in other words, effectively; for without good effort, complaint is a waste of time.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Wesley J. Perschbacher (Ed), The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc), p. 82.
[2] Perschbacher, Ibid, p. 82.
[3] Perschbacher, Ibid, p. 93-94.

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