I grew up in a rural part of Yorkshire and I still love to hear older people speak in strong Northern accents. I can remember when I lived there, if I asked anyone if they were okay, they would often reply with “Aye lass, I can’t complain”. I have been thinking about this expression recently because for many of us as carers, there are times when others’ involvement could be more helpful, but it is not always easy to say so, for several reasons.
We are stuck with professional relationships for better or worse, leading us to accept power imbalances that we wouldn’t tolerate in other areas of our lives. Some support and professional input are hard enough to come by, so we don’t want to jeopardise it. After all, those we care for need these people and services, leading many to wait until things get desperate before complaining. And there are times when we just don’t want to be ‘that person’. I can remember once thinking, I used to be nice before I became a carer! Even those who are confident to “tell it like it is”, get tired of conflict and tension. With family and friend relationships, there can be similarities, in that we may rely on the support. Then there are those who suffer in silence, out of fear of being judged or rejected.
So where does faith come into it? Some believe it is wrong to complain and there are scriptures to back up that viewpoint. For example:
Philippians 2:14-15 (TPT) 14 “Live a cheerful life, without complaining or division among yourselves. 15 For then you will be seen as innocent, faultless, and pure children of God, even though you live in the midst of a brutal and perverse culture. For you will appear among them as shining lights in the universe”.
If you, like me would rather avoid conflict, you might be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief at this point. These are wise words that Paul writes to the church in Philippi, to encourage unity. But there is more to it than that. As carers we are living out a God given mandate. Isaiah Ch 1 v 17 “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows”.
At first glance these two passages could seem contradictory, but there is both a godly and ungodly way to complain. The first doesn’t blame God or condemn others, it doesn’t belittle people or tear them down and it doesn’t bring division. The opposite kind of complaining is popular though because it brings relief, releases pressure and makes us feel justified. The problem is, these benefits are shallow and momentary, ultimately leaving us feeling empty because we are called to honour God in everything we say and do. It is an easy habit to form and a difficult one to break, though it can be done.
The Rules of Engagement
It is not easy to play by different rules, when dealing with stretched and sometimes broken systems, but when we do, we become ‘salt and light’. Despite appearances, attitudes never go unnoticed and forgiveness is rarely forgotten.
- Wherever possible, take it to God first.
Psalm 142:1–2 (NIV) “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble”.
When we take our complaints to God first, it gives a bigger perspective. Then if we need to talk with others later, it can be the difference between just gossiping and grumbling, to sharing positive strategies.
- Choose your end goal and stick to it.
It is important to know what you want to achieve through your complaint, to avoid anyone sidestepping the real issues. Staying focussed also helps us to steer clear of making personal judgements. I know it sounds simple but it is common to question others’ motives, whilst being anxious about being judged ourselves. We need to pray for wisdom to understand what is important, even to know if this battle is the one to fight, or if it will resolve itself without our involvement.
- Ask God to go before you in situations that you struggle with.
Deuteronomy Ch 31 v 8 (NIV) “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
And finally, remember to show gratitude when others’ do things well. This is so much more than good manners or making another person feel appreciated, although those are important. In the Bible, being thankful is often associated with peace and according to Dr Robert A. Emmons, gratitude provides a whole range of positive effects for our own physical and mental health, and wellbeing. It also gives us more empathy, improves sleep and builds our self-esteem.
So, next time you speak out (in the right way) for the person in your care, know that you are going about God’s business and He will bless you for it!