I don’t know about you, but all three of these (grumbling, complaining, and bad attitudes) are an occasional reality at our house.
While in America, we dealt with these issues much less than we do now in Africa. I recall a conversation I had not too long ago with my oldest son, in which he confessed that he had been struggling with his attitude–something he said he didn’t feel he had a problem with in America because we had so many distractions. For example, if the overtone of our home was negative, we might put some praise music on a CD while we did our morning work. Our daily chores were a regular part of our routine, but they had a definite beginning and end and we could look forward to some free time when we were done. We had NetFlix on-tap for both education and entertainment. If we were having a rough day, we could jump in the big red van for a trip to the museum or library. Even if we were stuck at home (though we tried to be wise and reasonable about our possessions), the children never lacked something to do. All of these “distractions” have been removed since our arrival in Africa. Couple that with a marked increase in daily labor, and certainly, grumbling, complaining, and bad attitudes should be expected.
In spite of taking advantage of as many “teachable moments” as possible in an effort to encourage the children in a more positive direction, I admit to feeling occasionally discouraged about the lack of progress in this area. It seems that while one child might show some improvement, another falls off the wagon and there are constantly one or two (or more) among our brood who just don’t like the way things are, don’t want to do what they’re told, or can’t get along with someone else in the family. So I hear grumbling and complaining and see those bad attitudes.
But I must confess, I have not been immune to the temptation. Perhaps that’s why we have all struggled so much. I realized in conversation with Isaiah the other day just why I fall prey to grumbling every once in a while–and just like any other character deficiency or sin issue, it’s interesting how that root cause analysis really leads you to repentance. It’s not that the work bothers me or that I’m particularly overwhelmed. Though that is sometimes the case, it’s more often that I fall victim to what I’ve heard called the “Mommy Martyr” syndrome. I feel that I work harder, serve more, and benefit less than most other people in the household. And it just wouldn’t be fair if they didn’t know it. So I sigh while I wash that second sink full of dishes. I mutter under my breath about how if the girls didn’t keep throwing clean clothes on their dusty concrete bedroom floor, I wouldn’t be forced to wash them a second time even though they hadn’t even been worn. I sit the children down for a lecture about how it would be nice if they could notice how I’m doing jobs they normally do, just so they can enjoy a break–and wouldn’t it be nice if, just for once, someone offered to help?
Why? Because I want someone to notice my efforts. Occasionally, some unsolicited help would be nice. Even better, an encouraging word would be so appreciated, given how hard I labor on their behalf. I want that proverbial “pat on the back.” And while it is true that we should encourage and help one another, there is a not-so- fine line between appreciating a positive response to our service and trying to force it upon those around you by making them feel guilty. As I said to Isaiah, cheerful service (“as unto the Lord”) brings us a reward from God, but in seeking praise from men, we have already received our reward in full (see Matthew 6).
I don’t think that all of my grumbling, complaining, and bad attitudes can be attributed to selfish manipulation or a desire for attention. However, when it is, I want to to repent and learn to seek my rest and reward from God. Just one more issue where I’m thankful for God’s grace and in which I want to press on to perfection.