I admit it. I complain a lot. Sometimes I don’t realize I am doing it until I see the look of confusion on my husband’s face. Bless his heart, he doesn’t know what to do about the coworker who makes me angry, the fact that there are not enough hours in the day, my stubborn metabolism, or the weather. To the tangible complaints, such as the dirty dishes in the sink, the unfolded laundry, or the overflowing recycle bin, his response is simple. If I want him to do something, he informs me, then “Just ask”.

A complaint is a poorly worded request. Those were the words that jumped out at me in a recent work retreat. Said in passing by the facilitator who spoke on the topic of collaboration, the meaning behind them penetrated my complaining spirit. Could it be that my habit of grumbling is rooted in unmet needs? I thought about this question on the flight home. Turns out, my husband was right all along.

Complaining often occurs when one feels overwhelmed, stressed, out of control, or exhausted. Assistance is needed during these extremes, yet it is rarely requested. Why is that? If we need help, why wouldn’t we just ask? I believe the answer is that there is vulnerability in asking for help – it means we must admit we cannot do it on our own. This is a difficult pill to swallow for those of us who may struggle in the areas of perfectionism, and dare I say – control. A complainer prefers others to assist without having to be asked. Such expectations are unrealistic, however, and do not align with Scripture, which reminds us that we “have not because we ask not” (James 4:2).

If you feel a bit convicted reading this, you are not alone! I am often in the same boat but be encouraged that we can flip the script by transforming complaints into requests by following five simple steps:

  • Identify the underlying need: Seek clarity on what is really bothering you and what is required from the situation
  • Focus on the solution: Shift your mindset from the problem to potential solutions
  • Be specific: Clearly articulate the assistance you are seeking
  • Remain calm: Avoid blame and criticism, and keep emotions from escalating
  • Express gratitude: Show appreciation for others’ willingness to listen and find solutions

My husband still can’t do anything about the weather, the number of hours in a day, or my freakishly slow metabolism, but he can lend a hand with the dishes, laundry, and recycle bin – and truth be told, he does these things 99.9% of the time. But for those few times, he does not, I just ask.

Scripture Readings:

Philippians 2:14 NIV

Do everything without grumbling or arguing…

Luke 11:9-10 NIV

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 

Mark 11:24 NIV

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 

Prayer: Lord, please grant me the wisdom and patience to transform my complaints into humble requests. Help me to see beyond frustration and into the heart of my needs. Guide my words to express my feelings without blame, and to construct specific requests that seek solutions. And most importantly, Lord help me to remember to express gratitude and appreciation for the willingness and grace of others who offer support and solutions. Amen.