Since I could not get to sleep and I just downgraded to a satellite package that does not include ESPN, I figured I could do some thinking-you know…real world problem solving. “So, what is wrong with the world, and what are the 3 easy steps to fix it?” I wondered.
People complain about everything. I have never seen lions, mockingbirds or conifers complain one time, so if something is wrong with the world, it is news to them. People are the only species with a complaint. People complain about the weather, politics, money, sex, other people… pretty much everything. Does the sum of the complaints match the amount of trouble in the world? Not at all. The world has some issues like tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, meteors, tsunamis, but they tend to work themselves out in time. Other than major, catastrophic, natural events, there aren’t many problems with the world. It is sometimes too hot and sometimes too cold. Sometimes there is too much or too little rain, but plants are doing ok. Animals keep on having babies, living, dying and eating each other from time to time. Once in a while, a species goes extinct. Overall, it looks to me like the planet is doing all right. So why is there so much complaining?
It is a given that people complain too much. And hey – I am complaining about people complaining!
‘Hey pot! This is kettle…you’re black!’
So then, why are they complaining?
People complain because they are disappointed. As Paul Simon says in “Train in the Distance,”
…the thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains.
Disappointment comes from unmet expectation.
There is something about life that does not measure up to what we had expected. There is something that we know is true and beautiful, like a distant, childhood memory that conjures up light, life and peace. There is something we are longing for that we feel like we owned once, but it slipped away like smoke through our fingers. We can still see it in our young children, an awesome innocence and wonder – a trust that everything is going to be ok. We are desperate to get it back, but we do not know where it went, why it left us and where to begin to search. Everywhere we look, there is nothing like it to be found.
What is this elusive, captivating feeling? We know it cannot be bought. We know it is not found in success, prestige, physical beauty, fame, or romance. It is not found in domination, conquest, war, terror, crime, or control. The pursuit of all of these things leads in one way or another back to the disappointment again.
If I had to sum up the core of this feeling in 3 words, they would be Faith, Hope, and Love. When we are in our best frame of mind, we have faith that there is hope for humanity in love. When we really believe that, the conclusion becomes – everything is going to be ok. If we lose faith, we doubt and complain. If we lose hope, we are discouraged and complain. If we lose love, we fall into despair and complain. The complaint is not the root cause; the loss of faith, hope, or love is the root cause.
OK, so now that we know the root of the problem, here are the 3 ways to fix it.
Faith – As dads we have an opportunity to create a shift in the story of a generation. We can look at our children as the beautiful possibilities that they are and not at how they fall short. We can see the beauty in them and talk about that beauty instead of focusing the attention on their lack, foolishness and immaturity. Maybe our parents were less than faithful in the way that they taught us to see ourselves. But we have the chance to change history by seeing in our children the best things about them, and telling them about those things, even when there is no evidence to support the picture. That is called “Vision.” It takes faith in people to have vision. It takes faith to believe that they can become something that they do not resemble today.
Hope – When our children complain about anything, we can already see that the problem is temporary and necessary for them to walk through in order to grow. The same principle applies to our point of view. Problems are the gym where our character works out. Hope is the satisfaction of knowing that the problem will go away and I’ll be stronger when it has passed. Now apply that thought to your problems. When the peace that you are searching for becomes tangible in your imagination, you have found hope. When you have hope, there is nothing to complain about, because you know that it is going to be ok. The problem is only temporary and you are building strength through it. Complaining is now a waste of time and emotional energy.
Love – This is not Hollywood love. Love is hard-core, decisive, serious stuff. Love is caring about others more than me and doing something about it. Love is to know that the only way to be satisfied is to give everything away. This love cannot be found unless we abandon our agendas and motives.
This kind of love is what makes you a hero to your kids. This love happens when they’ve eaten all the ice cream sandwiches but one…the one in your hand. Your little 4 year old walks in the room and sees it in your hand. She looks deep into your eyes with such trust and hope and says ‘can I please have that?’ You smile and gladly give it.
The magic of love is that it changes nothing about the circumstances. Instead it changes our perspective in them. Suddenly, my inconvenience and discomfort no longer matter. Suddenly, making someone else’s life better is all that matters.
I concede, you and I cannot ‘fix’ the world in 3 easy steps. But we can believe the best about others, see the hope that our problems are the tools that make us stronger, and love people with the things we used to call ‘ours.’ Then nothing that used to bother me can get me down any more. The complaining stops altogether.
Image credit: Barun Patro
Russ Zacek is married with 4 children. He is a freelance writer from Angier, NC, a stay at home dad, home school teacher, and children’s director at his church.