04 April 2006

Complaint Department (Part II)

There is much to be said about complaining. (See earlier post.) In today's first reading, the Israelites continue to lament their fortune. Their patience, worn away by the journey, led them to complain bitterly against Moses and the Lord. This is not an unusual example of what happens when we find ourselves in a difficult situation. We can allow a trial or a challenge to erode our own efforts at virtue.

One of the pitfalls about complaining is that it is easy and comfortable. It does not take great effort to complain. In fact, it is one of the more mindless activities known to man. One does not have to be of keen intellect to issue a complaint or grumble about something which is displeasing or inconvenient. And, like the seraph serpent that bit the Israelites, the habit of complaining issues a poisonous "bite" because it infects -- and affects -- our motivation to pursue virtue. This, in turn, affects those around us. Once we have begun to complain about something or someone, it is very difficult to curb the desire to continue. It is difficult but not impossible. It takes an insightful mind and a generous heart to speak honest and kind words in a situation where our first instinct might be to complain. With the grace of God, however, we can turn the mumbling and grumbling of our tendency to complain into life-giving thoughts and words. Let us begin by asking for the grace to be patient and kind amid the different challenges which arise daily.

"Some people are willing to bear only honorable afflictions, like being wounded in battle . . . but such people do not really love affliction, only the honor it brings. Those who are really patient and true servants of God are prepared to bear the ignominious troubles as well as the honorable ones." St. Francis de Sales

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