24 February 2006

Complaint Department

Perhaps one of the more tempting vices is that of complaining. One of the reasons it is so tempting is because it very often goes unchallenged. We don't usually complain to those who are unsympathetic; we normally seek out someone who will agree with our sentiments. St. James, in today's first reading, challenges us to resist this temptation. Easier said than done.

When we resist an opportunity to complain, we practice the virtue of patience. We may, however, speak candidly and simply of a difficulty without the risk of complaining. Sometimes it is necessary to make known our needs in a given situation. In this case, it is not complaining if it is done in a spirit of simplicity.

St. Francis de Sales speaks eloquently about the temptation to complain. His words reveal a keen understanding of the human condition:

"Do not complain . . . but above all, do not make your complaints to those who are easily excited to anger and ready to think ill of others. If it is necessary to complain at all, either for redress, or in order to relieve your own mind, let it be to some one of a peaceable disposition who truly loves God; for others, instead of soothing you, will only excite you still more: instead of extracting the thorn from your foot, they will but drive it in the deeper."

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