Are You Tempted to Complain? Read This!
We recently had a chance to get away for a few days of vacation at the beach. It could not have been more perfect: the sand was soft, the sky was blue, the water was clear, the temperature was pleasant, the hotel was fun, and the food was delicious. We felt very blessed to be able to get away and to be in a place that we love.
We had not been there long before we met a couple who complained about their room. The bed was not comfortable, the view from their balcony was not adequate, and they were asking for a change. We soon met another vacationer who complained about the food. The scallops were too salty for his taste. The cook clearly did not know how to prepare scallops to his liking. He was intent on letting everyone know of his displeasure. As we were checking out, the couple ahead of us complained about the bill. They couldn’t understand the charges and regardless how hard the receptionist tried to explain, they were not satisfied. It seemed that even in paradise, everywhere we turned, there was someone complaining about something.
Researchers have noted that we have a natural inclination to complain. It is a survival skill called the “negativity bias.” We are created to notice if things are slightly out of order so that we are alerted to the possible danger. It is great as a survival skill, but when it becomes a part of our everyday lives, the result is greater stress, anxiety, and the inability to enjoy life’s pleasures. Fortunately, there is very little at the beach that is a threat to our survival, except maybe a sunburn. Yet, even on vacation at the beach, we are inclined to see the negative.
Because of our negativity bias, it requires conscious, intentional effort to resist being negative and learn to see the positive. We can always find something to complain about, but we can also find something to celebrate. I believe that this is more than a happiness lesson. I believe that it is a spiritual discipline. The Scripture says it well, “Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). If we can learn this simple rule, it will help us to enjoy life more. I am already looking forward to going to the beach again.