1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1–2 NET)
As the leader of an organization I hear lots of complaining. Sometimes it is disguised as “helpful criticism”, other times people just come right out and complain about whatever has grieved their heart. While on rare occasions, some of the complaining can be justified, most of the time it is nothing more than harassment from some critical on-looker. This was what Jesus faced throughout his ministry and yet again here in Luke 15. The “experts” were once again complaining because Jesus was not acting the way they thought he should. He was eating with people they despised and at the same time ignoring them. So Jesus gives them some attention, albeit not the kind of attention they wanted. He starts into a series of parables to teach these complainers a lesson. I have come to realize that there will always be someone to complain about anything you try to do. It is true that making everyone happy is an impossible goal and one that not even Jesus was successful at. As I read this text I am convicted about my own complaining. Certainly I don’t want to be labeled a complainer by Christ, nor do I want to be perceived as a complainer in my community. So below is a list of a few things that have helped me when I am tempted to become a complainer.
- Seriously consider the value of my complaint. Is what I have to say really necessary? Does it have the potential of positive impact? If not I try to keep it to myself.
- Seriously consider how I will voice my complaint. How we say things is important. When I take time to think about what I am going to say, frequently I realize that my complaint is unworthy of mention, or can be framed in a way that is not a complaint at all.
- Seriously consider my emotional investment in the complaint. Many times our flesh is drawn to complain through our emotions. We are mad about something or feel neglected or mistreated so we act like the “experts” and use our complaining as a way to be recognized. If my complaint is based on emotion I attempt to fight the urge to speak up and wait until my emotions are in check.
I have also learned a few things about dealing with people who complain that may be beneficial to you as well. When faced with a complaint I always try to do the following things.
- Seriously listen to the complaint and try to understand the issue. Many times valid criticisms can be identified from people’s complaints. Just because someone is a complainer does not mean we should not listen to them.
- Seriously consider my response. Before I respond to a complaint I want to consider my words. This is easier if the complaint is filed through email or letter, but even while on the phone or visiting in person thinking about what the response should be is critical. Jesus gave a very thoughtful response to those who complained about His practice of eating with sinners.
- Seriously consider the “sucking power” of complainers. I can easily be sucked into becoming a complainer myself if I fail to use restraint when dealing with a complainer. Things can quickly turn into a “well what about your ….” and then I have been sucked in. Resist the “sucking power” when dealing with complainers, if you get sucked in things only get worse.