For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning (Philippians 2:13-14)
Many of us may have all heard the old saying, “Life is tough and then you die.” This is a simple truism. Not a complaint, mind you, but a simple statement of fact. No life is lived without some level of struggle or pain.
St. Joseph is the most perfect example of earthly fatherhood. His was a life filled with joy inspire of the great difficulties he was called to endure. He is an example of quiet resolve and strength, willing to give his life for his family and subject himself to ridicule without a word of complaint. As fathers we should turn to him with our own burdens and ask him to help us lift them high without complaint. Although this article is not about him, he is our earthly guide to fatherhood. I doubt that Joseph wasted time complaining. From scripture we know he was a man of action.
When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)
Early on as a father, I had to learn not to shelter our children unnecessarily from struggles and suffering. Not that I would have allowed suffering just for the sake of it, but I know from my personal history they will endure numerous storms in our lives. If my children were to survive these storms with their faith intact, hopeful and joyful about this life, it was my role to help them face these storms and find God’s will in it. If they are sheltered from any and all struggles and allowed to complain about the most minor of inconveniences, how are they to survive and thrive when I am gone.
Fathers are the example children will follow.
In our lives together over the last 30 years, like any other family, we have had great storms: loss of life, loss of home, unforeseen failures and more. One of the many life lessons was to not to complain and to find the good in those same circumstances. Instead of guarding the children from these struggles we allowed them to see them, in some cases be part of that suffering and as a result help them to grow closer to God with us in those times. To complain and grumble against God would have lessened their faith and demeaned their humanity. A humanity that was created by God for a greater good.
This was not always the case, over a decade ago we got some advice which shifted how we approached complaining and has been very effective. It was suggested that when faced with a task that will spark a complaint, respond with a positive exclamation, such as, “And it’s going to be great.” We have used this it often and it has been followed by joyous laughter and changes the focus from a “don’t want to do” attitude to a “can do” effort.
This is summed up well in 1 Thessalonians:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19)
We were often told that we were too “tough” on our children. Many times in our house, when somebody had a simple scrape on the knee or a small cut, you could have heard, “You’re fine. No need for all that drama.” Or my own favorite, “Suck it up, you are not going to die.” I believe consciously or unconsciously we understood that allowing the drama and complaining would not build sanctity in our children. Coming to see this was purely a gift of grace.
As we grew in faith we began to better understand that we must first stop grumbling and find ways to bind our struggles with Christ’s suffering on the cross. This for us, and our children, is the road to sanctity. When bound with Christ on the cross all our suffering becomes grace filled moments that contribute to the building of His kingdom.
St. Augustine of Hippo helps us clearly understand how to embrace these struggles as a form of reparations in life without complaining. To complain would remove that opportunity for grace and reparations.
“Trials and tribulations offer us a chance to make reparation for our past faults and sins. On such occasions the Lord comes to us like a physician to heal the wounds left by our sins. Tribulation is the divine medicine.”
Divine medicine! Brilliant!
The struggle is the cure for our soul while complaining only prolongs the illness. Jay Toups
Eliminating complaining from your life or in your home is no easy task. It is a habit, most often born from material excess, sloth or envy. Below are some practical steps to help our children avoid the sin of complaining and grow in virtue:
1. Give your children fewer material goods and in its place take them on a mission trip, feed the poor or volunteer at the local homeless shelter. Materialism breeds complaints and excess.
2. Teach them patience by making them wait. Yes wait! Instant gratification leads to sloth. Why work hard if it is so easy? If they complain again, make them wait longer. They will get the hint.
3. “Suck it up, buttercup.” Do not make a big deal over minor injuries or problems. Making a mountain out of a mole hill over minor injuries only feeds the fire of complaints.
4. Teach your children to be happy for others. Even if it means the other person has won a prize your child desired. This simple practice will eliminate envy, one of the seven deadly sins.
5. Help them understand that “It’s not all about them.” Serving others will bring them much greater happiness and joy in this life and the next.
6. Your child is not always right. Complaining against authority does then no good. (Teachers, coaches etc.)
7. Teach them the dignity of hard work. This will be a gift the take with them throughout their lives.
When we read the lives of the saints, we discover they are tough holy people grounded in the virtue of fortitude.
“Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” St Teresa of Calcutta
St. Teresa, a great saint in modern times, shows us the way, through the kiss of Jesus, to avoid complaints and even find joy in it.
In closing, our primary role as parents is to guide our children on the path to sainthood. No go become saints!
JMJ, Pray for us!
God is good,