My unhappiness with the Chargers is right in line with my disgust over the Padres and their recent failed season, the most disappointing season they have had since I’ve been following them. I confess that I was excited a little less than a year ago when the Padres made a flurry of trades and brought in some genuine major league hitters. At the time I had some uneasiness over the young talent they traded away to get those hitters, but still I was optimistic. It didn’t take long once the season began for me to start criticizing many of those trades because it became apparent that the team was not any better, even though their payroll was much higher and the future talent of the organization was now gone.
My greatest concerns, however, are not with the Chargers or the Padres, they are with me. I am disconcerted by my own tendency to criticize and complain. I suppose I could defend myself by saying that part of the fun of being a sports fan is analyzing and criticizing the teams that I follow. Nevertheless, I fear my reactions reflect an all too consistent tendency to criticize and complain. I do it more than I like to admit, and I do it about a lot more than my favorite teams. Sometimes I only do it internally, but the attitude of criticizing and complaining is still there. Philippians 2:14 commands us to do everything without grumbling or complaining. Uh oh.
If it was just sports maybe it wouldn’t be an issue.The problem is my criticizing and complaining are not limited to sports. They seem to crop up all over the place in my life. I am not alone. Have you ever noticed how habitual complaint and criticism are for most people? It’s everywhere. In his book, Stop Your Complaining, Ronnie Martin wrote, “it is a lifestyle, a way of existence and a daily routine that is as natural to us as breathing, eating and walking.”
Well what’s the big deal about that? What’s so bad about criticizing or complaining? The problem with our grumbling and our criticizing is that it divides and creates disunity. Furthermore, it reveals some ugly things about our hearts. It is not hard to see that it involves arrogance and disdain for other people. My little frustrations with the Chargers and the Padres are a good example. Do I really think that I am smarter than the general managers and coaches of those organizations? Do I really think that I could do a better job of running those programs that they can? Well, honestly I will admit that sometimes, down deep inside I apparently do think that. But in my more rational moments I know that’s not true. I have a friend who is the coach of a major college football team. I have seen the constant criticism and second-guessing that he has been subjected to and I know that all of those who criticize and second guess him don’t have a clue about how much he knows and about how good a coach he is. So in my more sane moments I know that those who coach and manage the Chargers and Padres are much more capable of doing their jobs than I would ever be. Yet I continue to analyze and criticize. And boy do I grumble when they lose.
Whenever we criticize others we are putting ourselves above them and judging them. We are seeing ourselves as the standard of wisdom. That is some fairly impressive arrogance right there. So that is a problem. But there is more. When we grumble we are also saying that we are dissatisfied with what God has given us in our lives. We are discontent. We are saying that we deserve better. What God has given us is not enough. In other words, just as we might view ourselves as more capable than those whom we criticize as they run their sports organizations, so we are viewing ourselves as more capable than God himself as he runs his universe. Yeah, I’d say that’s a little bit of a problem. Ronnie Martin in his book described complaining as a slow, subtle poison that builds in our system.
So what are we to do about this? First we need to see our complaining and our criticizing for what it is. Martin is right, it is a poison that does harm to us and others. We need to see the ugliness behind it and we need to turn from it. We need to decide that we want to do everything without grumbling and complaining. But just deciding not to be like that isn’t going to be enough. We need something to turn to. The thing we can turn to is gratitude. Pastor and author Mark Batterson says there are two kinds of people in the world, there are complainers and there are worshipers. To stop being a complainer we need to become a worshiper. The way to do that is to major in gratitude. It is to give thanks in all things as Paul instructed us in first Thessalonians 5:18. When we make that decision we will find an interesting thing happens in our lives. We will discover that we become more joyful. Grumbling and complaining never create joy. Gratitude always does.
But how am I supposed to be thankful for the Chargers and the Padres? That’s a really good question. I guess I should just be thankful that I am neither the coach nor the general manager of either one of those teams. There are always going to be things in our lives that we are not happy about. But we can always be thankful for the fact that God is with us, that God is working for our good in all things, and that we have hope. Although, I must admit I don’t have much hope for the Chargers this year.