How Can I Tell If What I Want to Say Is Complaining or Informing?
Complaining is primarily about focusing on the negative about circumstances, people, or perceived negatives (lies) about God. It is about communicating a lack of gratitude and a lack of faith in the Lord. A complainer is not looking for solutions, but just wants to spread negativity and discontent. The information shared is not something that the hearers need – or want – to know. And, sadly, a complaining spirit is very contagious.
Informing is primarily about sharing important information that the other person needs to know. We may need to share our desires about certain things. We may need to inform someone about a pressing problem that needs to be solved. We need to share if we are physically, emotionally, or spiritually so unwell that we need help from a specific person. And we need to share, with the right people, if someone else is not okay and he/she needs help.
From some of my wonderful readers (shared with their permission):
- I think complaining assigns blame, seeks sympathy and usually doesn’t solve anything. The hearer may not need the information at all. Informing seeks solutions and is intended to benefit the hearer by giving them needed information.
- I would say informing is giving information – positive or negative. Complaining is expressing a negative heart attitude. Informing can be devoid of any heart expression.
- This scripture (below) impacted me recently. Both complaining about OR withholding the truth of what is going on in our lives can be detrimental. If speaking the truth of our circumstances could lead others to eventually rejoice in God’s deliverance, then it is worth telling. Here, Paul is neither complaining nor withholding:
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 ESV
I think it is helpful to look at my heart, motives, and scripture as I try to decide if what I want to share is complaining or informing.
What Are My Motives?
- Do I simply want to make my needs known to God and – in faith – ask for His help and provision?
- Do I have a legitimate need or problem and am I looking to the person (or people) who can truly help me?
- Am I seeking only to tell people who actually need to know about the situation?
- Is my problem a significant one that I can’t handle on my own – much more than just a mere annoyance?
- Am I asking for things or sharing my perspective or the information I want to share respectfully?
- Is the problem something that can change and that is my responsibility to try to change?
- How often am I talking about the problem? Just enough to tell the person who can help me?
- Is this issue something that grieves God’s heart and something God instructs me to attempt to correct?
- Are my motives right? Do I seek to get the problem fixed in a way that honors the Lord?
- Am I acting in divine (1 Cor. 13:4-8 style) love for God and for others?
- Am I pointing others and myself to trust God, to love others, and to have greater faith?
- Will my sharing this information spur others on to greater faith in the Lord? Will it help them grow spiritually?
- Am I reverencing the Lord, respecting other people properly (especially people in positions of leadership), and respecting myself in the situation?
- Do everything without grumbling and arguing, Phil. 2:14
- Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. James 5:9
- Nor grumble, as some of them (the Israelites during the Exodus) did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 1 Cor. 10:10
- Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Pet. 4:9
We need Your clear wisdom, guidance, Word, and Spirit to help us discern rightly in this – and every – area. Help us to see our motives clearly. Help us to long to honor You in our thoughts, attitudes, motives, words, and actions. Help us to receive Your Spirit’s power to walk in holiness because we can’t do this on our own. Change us, Lord! Make us more like Jesus.