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Without Complaining


Philippians 2:14

Do all things without complaining or arguing…

We’ve heard the axiom, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” You may have also noticed that the barking dog gets the attention. If it is our dog that is barking, then we pay attention. If it is someone else’s dog that is barking, we pay attention. Regardless, a barking dog commands our attention.

And sometimes when a dog is barking, and it is our dog, it’s a good thing: we get alarmed that there is an intruder nearby, or something else might require our immediate attention. A bark can be a warning, a means of communicating alarm.

People have that ability also, to shout warnings, sound alarms, and protect others. Yet so many people bark as their sole means of communication. They behave like the boss or the drill sergeant, and they shout orders.

We had a dog, Sierra, and she barked a lot. I don’t know if she ever did anything useful with her barking, like scare off a burglar; I have no idea if her incessant yapping benefitted anyone at all. Perhaps keeping cats away.

But this I know, it doesn’t take much barking, without any noticeable payoff to become annoying…in dogs or in people. When our dog was barking in the middle of the day at leaves, or people walking on the other side of the street far away from her – it was annoying. And it annoyed others, as well. We even received one of those official notices of complaint about our barking dog. I don’t know why we weren’t thrown in jail over the years because of her barking.

Similarly, our own barking repels and annoys people. In extreme circumstances, barking orders, shouting, or spouting aggressive speech may be appropriate. But in most life situations that mentality is offensive; we’ve all experienced it or observed it at some point in our lives.

Sadly, some people live their lives never quite learning to communicate effectively – they only shout, or argue, or complain. The Bible reminds us not to complain or argue about anything. Why do you think that is? Could it be because it’s a useless waste of energy and doesn’t accomplish anything? It is unproductive to complain, and annoying.

Proverbs teaches us much about kind words. 11:9 “With words an evil person can destroy a neighbor, but a good person will escape by being smart.” 11:12 “It is foolish to belittle a neighbor; a person with good sense remains silent.” 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but hard words stir up anger.” 15:4 “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” 16:24 – “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” 18:4 “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.” 18:20 “Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person’s lips bring satisfaction.” I think we get the point: Kind words – good; mean words – bad.

I think our dog sometimes barked just to complain. There were times when I observed her barking and running along the fence in a frenzy. Obviously, there was something that had captured her attention and she was shouting her aggravating warning. But there were other times when I looked out and she was just lying there…barking. She was not even interested enough to get up and check it out. Or else she recognized it and was just displeased that the sound or smell had invaded her space.

Are we ever like that? Do we just want to complain but don’t have the ambition to move and do anything about it? I heard a story about the man’s dog who howled randomly while lying on the porch. When questioned about it, the owner said that a nail had come up through the board where the dog lay. When asked why the dog didn’t move to another spot. The owner said, “I guess it doesn’t hurt bad enough.”

Some people are like that dog: complaining, barking, grumbling, and faultfinding, but not willing to do anything about it. Some of us only know how to bark when we encounter an unpleasant situation or event in our lives, so we shout out and speak harshly; we become mean and ornery. We allow our annoyance to spill out onto anyone around us, very often upon the people closest to us and the ones we claim that we love.

At times like this, we are often unaware of how negatively people react to our barking. Yes, we can unnerve people. After all, if we don’t get our way, or things aren’t the way we like them, and our habitual response is to bark at the slightest provocation, is it not possible to take the next step – from a bark to a bite? Do we have the discipline to not lash out physically, since we have already displayed our willingness to lash out verbally?

I think I get like that when I forget where my source truly is. Sometimes I forget that the world and my job, and my house, are not the source of my happiness. The source of our lives surrounds us in God’s Presence, in the Holy Spirit that moves in and through us. We can breathe all the air we want but without God’s presence we will suffocate in this world. Our souls need to breathe, as well as our bodies. We can eat until we are obese, and still starve without God’s love in our hearts. Our spiritual natures need nourishment. We will be ever parched unless we drink often from the waters of eternal life as Jesus shared. I am lost when God is not my North Star. Regardless of my situation, there is no peace without God, only a feeling of unease and desperation.

In First Corinthians 13:1, we read: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Without the presence, love, and joy of God I feel like that clanging cymbal – a useless, noisy gong…a barking dog, making noise but accomplishing nothing else.

I walk every day, and along my route there are several yards with dogs. Most bark at me when I walk by, even the ones on the other side of the street, like our dog did. But in one yard, the dog runs up to the fence wagging its tail. It always gets a kind word.

In another yard, there are three dogs. One dog always runs along the fence barking ferociously. A second dog runs behind wagging its tail, and the third usually just stays where it is when I appear in front of the yard.

As I think about this subject, I know that each of us has those three dogs within us – the barker, the wagger, and the impartial. Which one rules our life? The choice is ours: it is whichever we let into our yard. Regarding everyone we meet, every situation we encounter, we choose our direction, response, and reaction.

We can whine and complain as we do the dishes, arguing about whose turn it is, and getting all out of sorts for the time it’s taking away from other more pleasant activities. Second, we can be grateful for having the lifestyle that includes eating with utensils and from plates. We can be grateful for the nourishment of the food we have eaten and the company of the people who shared the meal. Or third, we can simply perform the task without complaint, judgment or engaging any emotional energy. The barker, the wagger, the impartial.

By becoming aware of our choices, we can alter them if necessary. If we trust Spirit, we will be led to the correct path, and guided in the right direction; we will be invited to open our hearts to the right and perfect decisions for our lives. Psalm 143:8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.

When we open our hearts to God’s unfailing love, the choice of being mean or a complainer or a barker, is eliminated from our list of options. All that is left to us is being a tail-wagger, someone who respects, accepts, and appreciates others, or we have the opportunity for being neutral, non-judgmental, and detached.

And don’t be surprised if Christ instructs us to walk purposefully and confidently toward the barking dog, toward the nagger and complainer. This applies to pains and other imbalances we experience physically, emotionally, or mentally. An issue needs to be addressed, and ignored matters tend to persist and even escalate. Although wisdom is necessary, avoidance rarely leads to a satisfactory solution.

Without the awareness of Spirit in our lives we yearn for meaning and direction from a physical world that is incapable of supplying them to our spiritual nature. Without time in prayer, where we touch the divinity within the quiet of our souls, we are lost to the Light of God and our path remains unrevealed. In this state we can quickly lose hope, and the deficient diet of temptations, lies, and misdirection presented by our ego soon leaves us desperate again for the nurturing gifts of God.

It is my prayer that we always turn to Spirit for guidance first. When we want to bark and complain, I pray that we entrust our life to Christ, and allow the Light of God to illuminate our true options when facing our challenges, and that is to be lovingly nonjudgmental and positively dispassionate.


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