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The Home for Christian Writers! Matthew 6:33
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If there is one thing Christians should hate being seen to do, it's complaining; and let’s face it, there are plenty of non-Christians who are eager to remind us not to complain when it suits their purposes.
Isn't following Jesus meant to be about loving people? Aren't we supposed to do all things without murmuring or complaining? There is much to be said for these truths, but they don't tell the whole story.
Should Esther have kept quiet when she learned about Haman's plans from Mordecai? Should Paul have refused to mention his Roman citizenship to avoid being flogged? Should Paul and Silas just have moved on quietly after they were beaten, imprisoned, and then dramatically liberated from their chains by an earthquake in Philippi?
Given that Christians increasingly find themselves on the defensive in today's culture, I have found it helpful to keep these things in mind when complaining about matters of Christian principle, or about anything which involves trying to reach an agreeable outcome:
Just because someone does something which offends you mightily, it doesn't mean someone has offended you knowingly.
It helps to start by assuming the best about who you're complaining to, as this will influence the tone and content of the rest of your complaint.
Stick to the point.
Make sure your complaint concentrates on the core issue. Don't turn it into a grievance list. Not only does a litany of complaint leave the reader feeling attacked, but it raises the chances that you will be fobbed off with an answer which dwells on smaller issues.
Stick to the known facts of a matter.
Avoid speculative accusations about motives. If you are incorrect about your reader’s motives, your accusations will be denied because they are untrue. If you are correct, the accused may well falsely deny their motives anyway. Either way, there's no point wasting space and either creating or motivating opposition.
Try to focus on decisions and actions rather than personalities.
It is unfortunate that a younger generation of students has been raised to equate disagreement with personal rejection. Not only does this make life harder for everyone around them, but it makes them much less teachable. After all, what is there to learn if people can only ever agree with you? Even among those who can own up to making mistakes or being in the wrong, people find it hard to change their minds, but they generally consider it impossible to change themselves.
Try to avoid concentrating detailed criticisms in successive paragraphs.
There is nothing like reading several paragraphs of personalised criticism to convince a reader that the writer is impossible to please and is out to "get them"; in which case from the reader’s point of view no apology, suggestion, or counter offer they can make will resolve the matter anyway.
Close with an affirmation and a positive suggestion if you can.
Complaints should be normally be about encouraging someone either to fix something which has already happened, and/or to try to make sure that it doesn't happen again.
As much as it lies within us, we are supposed to live in peace with everyone. Sometimes we disturb that peace, and sometimes others disturb it. Either way, it is good to stand up for the truth of the gospel in a way which invites others either to join us or at least to help us.
© 2017 Christopher Bevis. All rights reserved.
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26 Oct 2017
Good explanation of what Godly complaining is, and like anger, there is a righteous way to complain.
Good point that in some cases it is good to speak up when something is wrong, evil. Also, that you said you need to make sure that a complaint is true and not just speculation. And the criticism is constructive.
My pastor said that Jesus only brings up a sin in people to fix it.
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