Sunday, August 15, 2010

Murmuring

The talks in sacrament meeting today were all about murmuring, which I found somewhat amusing given I'm currently sick and I get very whiny when I don't feel good. Since I don't feel good, listening to a guilt trip on the sinfulness of complaining just left me thinking of ways to justify the grousing to which I am prone.

I mean, really, there are different kinds of complaining. Some criticism is truly constructive, and some is completely appropriate. If a need isn't being met, or isn't being met well, it's reasonable, especially as someone involved, to bring up problems and suggestions for improvement. When you're truly invested in a project, organization, or relationship it's an obligation to bring up issues that pose a hazard, even if some might call such issues complaints. The complaint then provides the complainant the opportunity to develop or deepen a relationship of trust as the issue is worked out. This is an active and healthy part of my marriage, especially now that we have a kid who complicates my life incredibly. At least, it's an active and healthy part once I get through the blowing off steam pre-complaining.

My blowing off steam pre-issue resolving complaining probably isn't the best thing in the world, but for me it serves a purpose. When I get emotionally wrapped up in an issue, I have a tendency to hold back with the person most directly causing my discomfort, usually giving the excuse I don't want to say anything I'd later regret. Blowing off steam sessions serve two purposes--I get the worst of the emotions off my chest and I get a chance to practice what to say and bounce ideas of how to say things off another person. Admittedly, pre-complaining is also a form of procrastination (and sometimes prevents the constructive phase entirely, though I've gotten better about that as I've become more confident), but I'm unconvinced overall it's a bad thing. For instance, about a year ago I had some issues with my advisor. Rather than send the nasty response that immediately came to mind, I complained to a friend, who then helped me come up with a better way to approach the situation, both in terms of a solution and in terms of how to say what needed to be said.

Unfortunately, I have to watch this kind of complaining lest I get carried away, or inadvertently leave my listeners with an inaccurate and negative view of the situation. It's all too easy for blowing off steam to turn into something that escalates problems rather than solving them. Which is where I think we start treading into murmuring.

Murmuring for me implies that the person doing the complaining on some level no longer cares about a positive outcome for the issue--at least--all the way up to attempting to undermine another, to destroy, or to hurt. That definitely qualifies as a sin. I don't think most of us get to this point very easily. I suspect it takes a severe broach of trust to encourage most of us into this sort of behavior. But it does happen.

This next paragraph may be a little personal (though I'll try to be vague). The reason this topic bugs me so much is because there was a time in my life when I murmured. I hurt and I no longer cared about the damage I did to anyone else with my complaining. I still feel bad about it. Looking back, I know what I was really asking for was reassurance from my listeners. I felt like a horrible person because of the failure of a relationship, because of the way it failed, and I wanted my friends to tell me I was still a good person, worthy of being loved and wanted. Instead of asking for that I mulled over the wrongs committed against me and recited them to anyone who would listen, I suppose hoping at some point the situation and the pain would make sense, that the missing piece of the situation would click into place and a clear, unimpeded view of things would emerge. Needless to say, I don't have many friends from that period of time.

It wasn't me. Not the person I strive to be, anyway. Which is probably why I try to refrain from most kinds of complaining today (as much as I'm able to control myself, that is). The thing is, that other girl, the lonely, ugly, unlovable girl is still a part of me, and when I hear talks like the ones today--the ones that imply you're a bad person if you complain--she comes out and reminds me that I'm a bad person. I'm a big fat, ugly complainer. Which I suppose brings me to the whole point of this exercise--to justify the behavior of a me who even I didn't like. To tell her it wasn't okay, but it was understandable, and forgivable.

And forgiveness is all I hope to find.

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