Some days, you’d be sure I have it worse than everyone else. Everyone on the planet, ever.
I can run off a litany of hassles big and small in under five minutes.
A “situation” I’ve been praying about for three years is still status quo and if anything, worse. The washing machine repair guy has come by three times in three months and it still doesn’t work right.
Let me tell you about the bag of clothes, all new, on the back seat of my car. I bought them for my 17-year-old, on-the-spectrum son for Christmas. He said he liked them and they fit — but now insists he hates them, never said he liked them, and bagged them unworn and tossed them in the car for drop off in the clothing bin outside church. (Did I mention he keeps wearing the same three shirts every day?)
Oh, and how ’bout this one: I just got a $2,000 bill for village-required sidewalk work. Came in the same day I realized my dented, scratched up car is worth about half what I owe on it. Surprise!
And get this. I stupidly splashed bleach on a brand new blouse (not the first time I’ve done this either!). How bad do I have it??
Trust me, I could go on.
So giving up complaining for Lent is a natural choice for me and probably a necessity.
For some people the easiest way to cut the griping is to just stop — like ‘just say no’ to complaining.
That hasn’t worked for me. For me, the way to go is to open my eyes to people around me with far more awful circumstances to complain about. I know someone who was just dragged through the mud in a divorce, suddenly having been walked out on after – get this – 41 years of marriage. She just had a knee replacement, and last month had to stop driving because of excruciating shoulder pain, and now learns she needs a shoulder replacement immediately. All this while trying to find an apartment because she’s forced to put her house on the market.
And I’m complaining about a dented car and bleach stains?
Recently I went to the heartbreaking wake and funeral for the son of a woman I know. He had tragically, unexpectedly taken his own life at just 24 years of age. Seeing such anguish in this holy woman, I was blown away by her faith and her ability to express only gratitude to God for the precious years with her beloved son.
She’s not complaining; how can I be?
So for the 40 days of Lent I’m going to try to detach myself from my tendency to complain. Here’s how I see I can best accomplish this goal:
1) Instead of hyper-focusing on my own problems, I’m going to make myself aware of so many around me with bigger issues. Maybe I can even find some ways to lesson their load, thereby further taking my attention off myself.
2) Ask God’s help as I try to master self-control over this area of my life. God wants us to come to Him with our needs and waits to assist us in seeking Him and becoming more like Him.
3) Offer up the small sacrifice each time I’m about to complain, and choose to keep my mouth shut (or my brain focused elsewhere). I find this helpful, knowing that my little offering can somehow, mysteriously, be used as a prayer for a certain intention, a soul in purgatory, my friend’s suffering, a man with cancer, those with addictions, etc.
4) Replace my petty grievances with gratitude. We can all find something to be grateful for, right here, right now in the midst of whatever turmoil we find ourselves in. I have so much to be thankful for … great friends, good health, a beautiful day, a gesture of kindness, my Catholic faith and God’s assurance of rewarding us for every effort.