There’s a fine line between between being transparent and being whiny. Complaining is easy, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, people even reward us for grumbling online.
Don’t believe me? Which of these posts is more likely to elicit likes and comments:
“Great day! My kids were sweet and joyful and they cleaned their room! Who else had an awesome and blessed day? #awesomeblessedday”
“AARGH! My 3-year-old broke my phone, punched his sister, and bit me in a very sensitive place. Does this happen to anybody else? #terribleangryawfulchildren”
If you’re like me, the first post would actually make you roll your eyes — what a braggart. The second post would come across as “real,” and “gritty.” You’d chuckle to yourself, hit the Like button, and make a comment about how kids are little demons. You might even appreciate the authenticity and honesty of you and your friends.
Don’t get me wrong — both posts have major problems. It’s just that we only notice the problems with the braggy post. We ignore the fact that the second post is also blatantly disobedient to God’s Word.
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). I quote that to my kids all the time — you might do that also. But do you ever quote it to yourself?
“So,” you ask, ” should we just pretend everything is OK? Should I ever share my burdens and weaknesses and complaints with others?”
The answer is yes, under certain circumstances and in certain ways. Ask yourself this: “Why am I sharing this here, at this time and in this way?”
If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is often that we are looking for validation or sympathy. The ugly part of our souls, the prideful part, wants to be noticed. Playing the martyr is a quick way to get attention. Sharing complaints on social media accelerates and increases that attention. These days, it’s not just our family members and friends who hear our griping; it’s everybody we’ve ever known!
Authenticity means we’re not afraid to share our weaknesses and strengths, but we’re also don’t broadcast them to get attention. Allow me to suggest three good reasons for sharing our life’s problems with other people:
(1) We need prayer.
(2) We need help or assistance.
(3) We can encourage another person with his struggles by sharing our own. (Although this is rare).
Most of the time — not always, but most of the time — none of those functions require broadcasting our complaints to everybody on the internet. There are exceptions to the general rule. For example, I’ve joined several groups specifically designed so that I can pray for friends with sick children or cancer or other serious concerns. I’ve also seen some helpful posts about physical needs — somebody needs financial help or assistance fixing something.
However, the majority of our complaints (mine included) are simply whining. Whining happens when we talk about how hard our lives are, not so that people can pray or help, but so they’ll notice us.
So let’s try something new: Before posting a problem on Facebook, pray about it. Then call a friend or family member and ask for prayer. Talk to a pastor or counselor if necessary. Then, evaluate whether the broader world can pray or help in some specific way. If not, let’s stick with posting funny cat pictures or silly stories.
There’s a good reason Paul encourages us to do everything without grumbling or arguing. It’s so that we can “shine like stars” in the midst of a “warped and crooked generation” (Phil 2:15). Do our words shine the light of Jesus Christ, or are they just whiny? Let’s pray for the grace to shine like stars, so the world can see the joy and grace of our Savior.
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