Ungrateful: The True Cost of Always Complaining

“Thank you God for providing me with the resources to pay my bills,” I was complaining to myself right before I said that little prayer. Once again, our income was not enough to pay all of the bills. We had already downsized our lives and reprioritized what we thought was important. Yet, all it seemed to do was to remove a drop of water from the sea that we were drowning in. I was bitter as I transferred more money from our quickly shrinking savings into our hungry checking account (seemingly the only dry spot in our lives). How had our lives come to this? All the planning, long hours at work, and countless trips to and from everywhere had brought me to this point. Sitting in my home office, complaining about money, thinking I was broken (maybe even worthless), and feeling sorry for myself.

At first I muttered the words mockingly, “Thanks God.” But, as soon as the words left my mouth, I realized it was true. Our bills are all paid; yes, it partially came from our savings account, but wasn’t that money provided in the past to take care of our future? It was at that moment that I realized that I am ungrateful, perhaps even spoiled. I was not bitter because my life was in ruins, or because I had been forgotten by the world, or because God did not care. I was bitter because things were not going the way that I wanted them to. I was bitter about things out of my control and I simply wanted to blame the world. It quickly struck me just how odd and unreasonable my thoughts were. Nothing productive could come from such things. My fear, anger, and bitterness were doing nothing for me. It was an anchor that I was trying to use as a life vest. I grabbed on to the anchor as tight as I could and then complained that it was not keeping me afloat.

Perhaps we all need to reexamine our expectations. We all need to do a little less complaining. We complain about our staff, we complain about our customers, we complain about our vendors, we complain about our government, banks, schools, doctor bills, homeowners associations, neighbor’s dogs, traffic, poorly maintained roads, road construction, food that is too cold, coffee that is too hot, and the list could go on and on. There is no way around the truth that we love to complain. The problem is that a complaint says that we expect someone else to fix the issues in front of us. A complaint does not mentally prepare us to find solutions. Instead, complaints allow us to sit down and pass the problem on to someone else.

“Thank you God for providing me with the resources to pay my bills.” This one little sentence changed everything for me. I realized that as long as I focused on what I did not have, things would continue to go downhill. As I continued to pay the stack of bills, I became grateful for what I did have. That simple change in perspective does not take away the fear of an unknown future, and it only slightly alleviated the worry, but what it did do was powerful. It allowed me to see the resources I did have. Instead of complaining about what I don’t have, I can focus my attention on utilizing what I do have to move forward.

Honestly, I wish that I could say that this story took place years ago, but this is my life today. I am learning, and hope that I am growing, but I don’t know what that means or looks like for tomorrow. But I can say this: whether you are a business owner, manager, job seeker, or retired, we all need to learn to be more grateful. We really only have two options: we can sit down and complain that we are not getting anywhere, or we can stand up and start walking. We can blame the world or we can change the world. At some point, each one of us will have to decide for ourselves if we would rather drown or let go of our anchor and swim for shore.