Grumbling is Bad for You

Followers of St Benedict know that he was opposed to grumbling. He did allow that there were occasions when ‘justifiable murmuring’ might arise; but it was the abbot’s business to ensure that it didn’t by arranging everything in the monastery as fairly and prudently as possible. Grumbling is bad for you, and destructive of community. Unfortunately, we all seem to enjoy it — provided we are the ones doing the grumbling, of course.

We know better than the Prime Minister how certain situations should be dealt with, and we are happy to let everyone know what we think and have a little grumble into the bargain; if we were Pope, the Church would be much better organized and we are delighted to share our superior knowledge with everyone else and deliver a few animadversions on the present successor of St Peter along the way. I daresay even Bro Duncan PBGV has an opinion about how his meals and walks could be better arranged, but, luckily for us, he cannot speak it or write it — and there’s the rub. Because our hairy brother cannot grumble, he is always nice to be with. The same cannot always be said of us.

There are occasions when we can and should protest; but the low rumble of discontent and dissatisfaction that often accompanies our lives does no good to anyone, least of all ourselves. A useful Lenten exercise is this: ask yourself what has provoked your ire recently, and how you have expressed it. Did you explode, letting off verbal fireworks in all direcions? Did you keep silent when you should have spoken out? Did you speak out as you should, with courtesy as well as conviction, or did you simply abuse another? Was the object of your anger justifiable, or was it a selfish peeve? The saint we commemorate today, St Chad of Lichfield, was known for his simplicity and humility. He was by no means a fool, but he knew how to speak out and how to hold his tongue, how to moderate his anger, how to judge between a grumble and a genuine grievance. Let us pray for the grace to do the same ourselves.

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