Is It Okay To Complain?

Beth Demme Blog, Living Expectantly Series 3 Comments

Living Expectantly, Part 3: Is It Okay To Complain?

By Beth Demme

Is it okay to complain?

How many choices do you think you’ve made so far today? Maybe it’s early enough that it’s been simple: Coffee? Yes! Decaf? No!

Maybe your day has been longer or harder and you’ve already conquered a full buffet of choices. Unless you’re a hermit, you’ve probably made decisions on behalf of several other people, too.

Our lives are full of choices and every choice comes with a set of expectations.

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at what it means to live expectantly instead of living with expectations. Today I want to focus on how expectations can inhibit genuine community.

Living Expectantly

Being in community —building friendships— requires us to be authentic about the parts of our life that aren’t going so well. Sometimes it’s hard to share because we don’t want to complain.

People expect us to be happy with our choices and we want to live up to their expectations, so we avoid authentic sharing.

For example, self-employment.

My husband and I are both self-employed. In some ways, self-employment is what you might expect. People are happy to hear how great it is that we can work anywhere and have flexible hours. I don’t think people are as excited to hear that it can be lonely or scary. We aren’t likely to talk about the fear that pops up when a deal falls through or a client is slow to pay.

Being a mom is like that, too. People expect you to focus on the beautiful parts. It feels like no one wants to hear about the hard days. During potty-training people say things like, “I haven’t seen a child yet who went to kindergarten in diapers.” Yes, I knew it would happen eventually, but I worried I would be clinically insane by then.

It’s true beyond potty training too. People seem to get amnesia about the hard parts. It’s good to focus on the happy, fun moments. But it isn’t honest or helpful to pretend like every moment is happy and fun.

The truth? Sometimes kid games are boring. The card game “War” isn’t actually strategic and “Slap Jack” makes me wish I could actually slap Jack (whoever he is). Sometimes listening to an early reader is frustrating, even though I know it’s important. And sometimes I don’t want to humor my children because I’d rather take five minutes to remember who I am.

On the one hand, a mom can’t really say those things because it sounds selfish.

Every mom with children still at home knows she is expected to cherish these days. But does anyone really believe Every.Single.Thing a mom or dad deals with in a day is worth cherishing?

Honestly, being a mom is hard and I almost always think I’m doing it wrong.

I want to live up to people’s expectations so I don’t say the honest things. In fact, I sometimes edit myself into complete silence. As you can imagine, that makes for awkward conversation with friends. Or worse, dishonest, inauthentic conversation.

I unwittingly sacrifice friendship and community when I fool myself into thinking people expect me to have only happy or easy days.

Learning to live loved requires both honesty and friendship. I’m giving myself permission to be honest about the parts of my life that should be easy, but aren’t. I’m embracing the freedom to be genuine even if it might sound like I’m complaining.

What about you? Are you good at sharing the hard parts or do you shy away from anything that might sound like a complaint? Tell me about it in the comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or via e-mail.

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