Monday, December 14, 2009

Complaining is Immodest

Modesty is a word that, in Christian circles, usually refers to the hot topic of dress codes. Should women wear swimsuits in public? What is appropriate for church? For everyday? Is only the motive important, or is there an absolute line that should be drawn: you can see this much skin and no further, this much shape and no more?

But modesty originally had more to do with attitude than appearance. The word is often applied to what we wear, which is a good use for the term. But have you not heard someone responding to a denied compliment: “Don’t be so modest!” In this sense, modesty is a synonym for humility. We get an idea of not praising oneself. Do not desire the praise of men, but certainly don’t praise yourself before men. Let your own works praise you in the gates…

Attention is a big theme of modesty. Are you demanding attention? It is not modest to dress so provocatively that others must notice you. Nor is it modest to talk often of yourself, whether what you tell is good or bad, true or false. To be modest is not the same as being shy. Modest people do not need to hide in the shadows or refuse compliments. They are gracious and grateful, cheerful and others-centered.

Today I am convicted by a different form of modesty that I had never considered. Complaining. First of all, the Bible specifically condemns grumbling, so that should be sufficient reason not to do it. Secondly, being around complaining people is unpleasant. And it brings me down. Focusing on the bad is the opposite of thankfulness and contentment. Speaking about it is the opposite of modesty.

Frustrated with my displays of discontent recently, I examined what was driving me to complain. And I realized that I complain for something to say and so that people will listen to me and notice me and be forced into my concerns. Complaining is different from asking for help. My whining at times has been a plea for help, but too proud to be expressed. There is a short road, then, from the attention-grabbing complaint to pride and bitterness and being quite rude to people.

Love is not rude. It is not self-seeking or puffed up. Love is modest. I am called to love my neighbor. I serve a God jealous for glory, who resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Grace is something I could use a lot of.

In order to pursue God’s glory and loving my neighbors, I am going to:

  • Get someone to smack me when I complain.
  • Practice asking for help.
  • Ask questions about other peoples’ lives rather than ranting about my own.
  • Practice thankfulness.
To God be all glory.


MInTheGap said...

This past Sunday we were doing Bible Class with our kids and the lesson was on the fact that the children of Israel complained about not having food and water and how God provided Manna and Quail.

We remind our kids often about how the New Testament encourages us to do everything without complaining or arguing-- and yet how easy it is for even us adults to get trapped into doing these very things.

Thanks for the reminder that it's not just clothing or attention that leads to immodesty.

Lisa of Longbourn said...

It's amazing how often complaining comes up - and we still do it, as though it weren't such a bad sin!

Thanks for the comment.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

MInTheGap said...

It's funny how we have categories of sins, isn't it? I mean, the Lord got really upset with the complaining Israelites, but we don't seem to lump that sin in with other "big sins" today. The Israelites were almost wiped off the face of the Earth for it!

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Yes. One way or another, we should be shocked: either at the Israelites' persistent, blatant sin or by God's judgment of something we see as so commonplace and innocent. I guess when I read the stories in the Bible, or even the commands, about grumbling, I assume they means something bigger than what I do. That's not indicated at all.

And once I am paying attention to not complaining, I realize the impact it has. My favorite people are grateful, not complainers! I have just assumed there was no better way. Sort of. I mean, I have an aunt who complains all the time, and I have thought - well, does she really want that to be her life? It brings her down just like heavy metal music does to me and my friends. I have no excuse. I know better.

Good thing God is getting it through to us!

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

MInTheGap said...

I think God really brought complaining-- and how much I do it-- to my attention in college. I had this roommate that all he did was complain about the college we were attending. He complained about the rules, the people, the teachers, all the while they were being very gracious.

It made me so crazy I had to leave the room!

And that's when God brought to mind that sometimes the sin that bothers us so much in another's life is the one that we struggle with to-- the old "takes one to know one."

I've really tried to reinforce with the kids that complaining and arguing have no place in the Christian's life, but I so need the remember it myself.