Why Grousing isn’t Good for You

The Glorious Twelfth of August is when guns start popping on the grouse moors, but those lovely game birds aren’t the kind of grouse I am talking about. I mean those little rumbles of discontent which surface with alarming frequency whenever Life or Other People don’t meet our exacting standards. ‘It isn’t fair,’ we cry, as though we were five years old still and hadn’t learned that life isn’t fair, nor is it meant to be — we are treated so much better than we deserve. ‘He/she is absolutely impossible,’ we mutter, conveniently forgetting our own impossibility in return. How many people have walked away from the Church, from marriage, from religious community simply because other Church/community members or their partner did not correspond to their ideas of what they should be?* And if we don’t walk away, how many of us instead allow the acid of carping and criticism to destroy, drip by deadly drip, what was meant to be good, holy and sustaining?

St Benedict was very severe about grumbling. He saw it as a corrosive in community life, and although he acknowledged that there were occasions when grumbling might be justifiable, he regarded them as few and exceptional. Unfortunately, we live in a society which regards grumbling as something we ought to do. We have our rights; we must allow no one to take us for a ride; we must criticize whatever we perceive to be wrong, even if we know very little about the matter. It is so much healthier to air our grievances, real or imaginary, or to draw attention to the failing of others rather than scrutinize our own.

The trouble with this kind of thinking is that it forgets something fundamental. The person who is always grumbling, whose dissatisfaction with everyone and everything is sometimes voiced, sometimes just under the surface, is someone who is closed to all that is good. The arteries of the heart can be clogged with bitterness just as surely as they can be clogged with fat. It isn’t ‘healthier’ to grumble. In fact, it can be downright dangerous, both to our health and to our happiness. In the end, the grumbler and grouser may find life every bit as lonely and disappointing as he/she imagined because no one will want to come near. We don’t start out like that, of course. Our grumbles are just occasional. But they can become habitual, and there is nothing sadder than the person who has grown old feasting on grievances.

* I know that there are many other reasons for marriage breakdown or leaving a religious community. I am merely highlighting one which is commoner than one would hope.

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8 thoughts on “Why Grousing isn’t Good for You”

  1. I suspect that grumbling is a part of our nature, which if we are wise we suppress, and take the positive and lay the negatives at the foot of the cross. I just wish that I could take my own advice? 🙁

    I’m guilty of grumbling, in the main at my own selfish wish for the church to get on with it’s discernment of a possible vocation, and the complete inaction of those responsible which might be considered as bad manners in that they’ve not even replied to correspondence on the issue.

    I’ve tried and prayed hard for some peace with it and to just wait for God’s will to be discerned, but it feels wrong – we are called to do a little bit to help ourselves. God provides the possibilities, we need to see them and see those possibilities through, prayerfully and with keeping Jesus central to all. But, when doors in all direction are closed to you, you end up feeling helpfless and adrift. This is unhealthy for both the church and for the individual – I’ve stuck with it, but have to admit that just like here, the occasional grumble bursts through. 🙁

  2. Succinct and so true. I seldom share blogs that I’ve read, but made this an exception. Particularly liked the graphic phrase “the arteries of the heart…”

  3. Very wise words. I think I am as guilty as anyone of grumbling, but I do my best to also be very grateful for the people and all the good things I have in my life.
    Hopefully that part weighs up any negativity.

  4. I’m reminded of the woman in C S Lewis’ The Great Divorce who has ultimately closed herself off to the possibility of heaven because her life-long habit of grumbling has taken her over to such an extent that she has ceased to be a “grumbler” and is now nothing but “a grumble”. There’s nothing left of her… Lewis puts it far better than I have – it’s a sobering and quite terrifying thought! One of the images that has stayed with me most clearly from the book.

    I’m still learning, though – when I first read your post I thought of a few people I know, before remembering how much I need to apply it to myself!!

  5. Thank-you! I’m just re-reading a book about Bemedictine spirituality, and this is the first time through that the chapter on community has really spoken to me… giving each their freedom to live their plan instead of grumbling about how they don’t fit the plan I’ve written for them.

    The timing of this post couldn’t have been better. Once again, thank-you!

  6. I grumble and moan and laugh at myself many times when small glitches get in my way. I grew up in a moaning family and so it is just a part of me. However that being said I also know that grumbling is negative and distracting. Thank you for posting and stimulating conversation on this topic. I too attempt to move myself to a place of gratitude so that whatever misfortune presents itself is merely passing by and not become a more permanent obsession. Praying for God’s grace is always a big help.

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