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How to deal with grumbling

I like the story of the man who decided to join a monastery and one of the rules of the particular monastery was that you were only allowed to speak two words at the end of every ten years.


At the end of his first ten years he said, “Food Bad!”


At the end of his second ten years he said, “Bed Hard!”


Finally, on his 30th anniversary at the monastery he said, “I quit!”


The monk in charge responded, “It doesn’t surprise me a bit. You’ve done nothing but grumble ever since you got here.”


The bible writer James told to his listeners ‘Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged’


Moses cried to the Lord repeatedly for deliverance from the Israelites’ grumbling after they left Egypt. Eventually, in total exasperation, he cries out How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against me?


And St Paul exhorted the church in Philippi to, do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation


Here are THREE ways that we can be better at dealing with grumbling


1. Admit when grumblers are right

It can be hard not to automatically discount the concerns of people who grumble a lot. But when their complaints are valid, they should be taken seriously. Whatever the wrongs of grumbling, sometimes grumblers have a point!


It takes maturity to admit when the grumbler is in the right – because our natural tendency is to bite back. We resist responding positively because we think it will just add fuel to fire. In my experience, the opposite is the case! It is actually really disarming when you respond to grumbling with ‘You know what? You have a point there. Thank you for bringing that to my attention’.


2. Get to the source of grumbling

I cringe inwardly every time I hear a sentence that starts with ‘People are saying’.It is an unbiblical cop-out to hide behind phrases like ‘people are saying’. Invariably it is the first three words of a painful and hurtful criticism that’s impossible to pin down or properly deal with.


The best way to deal with people are saying is thank the person for their concern, but ask them to go back to ‘the people who are saying’, and ask them to come and speak with you directly. Nothing good can come from dealing with grumbling via intermediaries...


3. Don’t grumble about the grumblers

We hear that people are grumbling about us, so we respond by grumbling about the grumbler. It’s a natural human reaction to complain about the very people who complain about us!


Oddly enough, we never see Jesus responding in that way. He was routinely grumbled about by Pharisees, scribes and other Jewish leaders. What did he do? He called them out! Because we are conflict-averse, that’s often the last thing we want to do – but it is the Jesus way.

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