Complaining in moderation to find the silver lining

Lisa Goudy
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Lisa Goudy

American author Maya Angelou once said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

I really like that quote. The truth is that complaining is easy. Everyone is guilty of complaining, including myself. When something is wrong in our lives, complaining to someone can serve as a way of expressing our dissatisfaction or irritation.

Complaining isn’t always bad. When it concerns an important issue, such as poverty, lack of housing or municipal, provincial or federal financial woes, complaining brings those issues to the forefront.

The complaints let fellow residents and elected officials know there is a problem. For marginalized groups, complaining can shine a light on the problems. Complaints mean something is wrong in society and can actually serve as the first steps toward change. That should be encouraged.

Voicing our concerns is certainly valid and letting our true feelings out instead of keeping them locked inside can be liberating. But it is possible to complain too much. Repeating the same things over and over again can have an effect of causing people to tune out. I still think we should complain when necessary, but in the right way.

If you find someone doesn’t listen to your complaints, maybe that person isn’t the right person to complain to or maybe you need to complain less often.

You also need to complain in the right place at the right time. Some things should be public, such as any pressing issue I mentioned earlier, in order to get noticed and help facilitate change.

But those complaints about our lives and how perhaps some part of it isn’t what we expected or if we’re in a situation we’re not happy with on a personal level, those should be done at home, not at work or in public.

Oftentimes complaints can be trivial. Voicing those in a public place might gain you a reputation of a complainer and then perhaps people are less likely to listen if and when you have something important to the community to complain about.

When there is a part of life that makes us unhappy, complaining is only one step of many to making you happy. If you’re fortunate enough to have food on the table and a place to live, those are two things you should be grateful for. Looking for the silver lining is the best way to help make us happier. If your day went horribly, try to find something good about it. Did you enjoy your lunch?

Or focus on what you do to relax after your bad day. Are you reading a good book or watching a great television show or movie? Did you have a nice conversation with a friend or family member? Did you do anything rewarding in your day?

If you can honestly say, ‘yes’ to any of those questions, you’ve successfully found a silver lining. I know it’s not easy to find, especially in the darkest moments of our lives, or when we’ve been in a gloomy place for a while.

But it is important to do. We can change our attitude or the way we look at things and remember to take things one day at a time. Besides, there’s always more than one way to look at things. A quote from Ziggy, a single panel comic strip created by Tom Wilson, stated, “You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

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