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On Complaining

  • J. FRASER FIELD

Shortly after I converted to the Catholic Faith in 1986, I attended three retreats given by Fr. John Hardon, SJ, who was Mother Teresa's spiritual director whenever she was in North America.


ComplainingBirdPhoto by Santiago Lacarta on Unsplash.

Fr. Hardon also oversaw the spiritual formation of the Missionaries of Charity for Mother Teresa.

Father was a giant of a spiritual director. One thing he told us on those retreats that I'll never forget: With emphasis, Father said, "Never ... ever ... ever ... ever ... ever ... ever ... ever ... ever ... ever complain."

Father explained. Because God has ordained everything in our lives—that is all the people and circumstances we encounter—are for our good, whenever we indulge in complaining, we are actually complaining about God. We are telling God, "You made a mistake."

I have a friend who spent seven or eight years as a real, live hermit. He's read a lot on the spiritual life, and I really value his friendship and mentorship. I've learned a lot from him. One day he came to visit me in Powell River, and I took him for a walk in the rain and the wind down where I live. I said something about the miserable weather, and he rejoined that what I'd said was ungrateful, that God had ordained the exact weather we were having on that day. Instead of complaining, we should thank God for the gift of what he has ordained.

What a penance not complaining is! For many people, it's a mighty penance. But it's a penance everyone can do. We must all make the effort to curtail our complaining, and especially our complaining about other people. Challenge yourself not to complain for a whole day. Keep yourself from even a quiet grumble. Don't allow yourself to complain even about the weather. Instead—like my holy friend—thank God for the wind and the rain.

My youngest son doesn't complain. He works as a pipe-liner in Alberta where the weather can be brutal. But he never complains. If I were to say to him "It must have been rough today working in a ditch in 15 below weather with the snow blowing sideways, I know what he'd say. He's shrug it off with, "It is what it is." I like that expression. It conveys a couple of simple truths. This is my job. There's nothing I can do about the weather, and I'm at peace with what God has ordained. Not only is it unmanly to complain, it's unchristian.

The opposite of complaining is speaking words of gratitude and holding a sense of gratitude in your heart. Being a grateful person is the secret to real happiness in life. G.K. Chesterton wrote: "The great saint may be said to mix all his thoughts with thanks. All goods look better when they look like gifts."

This is Meaghen Gonzalez, Editor of CERC. I hope you appreciated this piece. We curate these articles especially for believers like you.

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Acknowledgement

fieldJ. Fraser Field. "Complaining." CERC (2023).

The Author

Fraser Field is the founder and publisher of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Copyright © 2023 CERC

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