Growth & Change: A Time for Complaint

11:34 AM

Photo by: Unapologetically Pam

There is a time for everything. There is a season and a place for every action under the sun. 

But, is there a time to complain?

I would argue absolutely! There are good times to complain, especially when something violates your values. When you feel that tug on your heart-string after something sexist, racist, classist, homophobic, or xenophobic, is said, speak up. That is an excellent time to complain.

But, have you ever been around someone who seems to complain all the time, about things that don't even really matter? Here's an example - recently, I overheard someone complaining about the free coffee that was provided during a meeting. Now, mind you, this meeting was about ways in which we can continue to provide resources and empowerment to underserved communities. When I walked into the meeting, I was really impressed with the effort the staff put into this provision. There were two different kinds of coffee - Peets or Starbucks. Plus plenty of creamer - french vanilla, hazlenut, lowfat, dairy-free, you name it! I walked in and thought, "Wow, this is really nice of them to provide!" But not this other person. This other person said, "Ewww, the coffee here is so gross. Peets basically tastes like brown water. Starbucks sucks. Why couldn't they do Intelligentsia? Ugh...I hate the coffee here so much." This person then continued to grumble throughout the meeting about various things they didn't like. For all of your coffee connoisseurs out there, I get it. You may agree with this sentiment. Maybe you aren't a fan of these brands. And that's totally cool. But, I would argue that in a meeting where we're discussing ways to serve underserved communities, this is not the place to complain about the coffee. And in the most general sense, when someone is providing you a courtesy, not a requirement, is it really the right time to proclaim that you HATE that thing they gave you for free?

I tried to shake off their comment, to not allow their negative actions to dictate my own. But it still was nagging at the back of my mind. Rather than ignore the nag, I decided to lean into it. When I dug deeper into this, I understood that really what frustrated me about this person's complaints was the position of privilege that they spoke from. With all of the things in our world that are important, that we should be fighting for - should complaining about free coffee be one of them? Furthermore, in a space where we are seeking to serve those who are under systemic oppression, should we fight about coffee? Or fight about inequality? Moreover, as someone who grew up low-income and as a member of one of these underserved/underrepresented communities, most of the places I went to didn't provide anything for free. The meetings I've gone to, I would be grateful if there was water available. But, I don't expect it from them. 

At what point in our lives do we become so privileged that we complain about the provisions in front of us rather than responding with gratitude?

There is a time and place for everything. I encourage you to use your voice and to speak out, especially in places where your voice would be silenced. However, do not become blind to what's really important. 

Pick your battles and complain wisely.

Pam ♥

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