It’s New Year’s Eve today.
Today we sit on the edge of another 12 months of possibilities, disappointments, and discoveries. In essence, it’s the same as any other day but we tend to assign more weight to it than it’s due, and this is why gyms will fill up the first two weeks of January, then return to the normal hum of fitness regulars. We expect tomorrow to be greater than it is.
Which is (kind of) why I wanted to write about a trend, or phrase, I’ve been seeing a lot lately. All across the worldwide web, I see people regularly complaining.
“Adulting is hard,”
We—upper to middle class Americans—have every opportunity known to man. And those of us who have passed from high school to college and have now graduated have literally all the freedom in the world to go wherever we want, make investments, start organizations, start families, work hard, save money, move, read for fun, and literally anything else we could imagine.
And what do we do with this freedom? Complain.
We invented the word “adulting” just so we could complain about how difficult it is. And don’t get me wrong: With this new form of freedom and responsibility, there are new problems and difficulties which arise. We are suddenly thrust out of the comfort of a structured life and into a totally foreign realm of malleable time and opportunity. But I find it odd that people prior to our generation never complained about this as much as they simply rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
I mean, in certain African tribes, boys go out into the wilderness and kill lions in their mid-teens as their rite of passage into manhood. Then they begin their grown-up life. And here I am, ten years older, tempted to complain about how difficult my life is.
The fact is, as a middle-class American, I will not go hungry. I have tried dozens of things since graduating high school, and many of them failed. And I have certainly been a whiner at numerous points. Yet there was not one day I worried about going hungry or not having clean water to drink.
Rather than embrace our opportunities, make daring attempts, or even just work hard, we stress, flip our phones on, and whine about how hard it is to ‘adult.’
The irony here is that those who are truly in need and who are really struggling with life are those who are not complaining about ‘adulting.’ The single mom working three jobs to provide for her kids, or the family in India who splits one sack of rice for their weekly meals are the ones who deserve our sympathy and help more than the recent college grad who can’t decide what color Jetta to buy.
I don’t mean to build arguments on hypothetical situations, or guilt you into sympathy. But I do want to call something out in today’s American Christianity.
When it comes to ranking our sins, we are good at averting our eyes from certain categories and focusing on others. One of the more overlooked areas of sin is complaint. Let us not forget that in Numbers 21, God allowed snakes to kill several thousand Israelites simply because they were complaining.
They weren’t worshiping other gods or sleeping around; they were complaining.
Yet today, we feel a liberty to complain without consequence. I think this comes from a notion of entitlement Americans are raised with, and when things don’t go our way, or we feel a bit of discomfort and stress, we have a right to complain about it.
Why is complaining such a big deal? Why would God let thousands of His people die simply for complaining? I think the short answer is because complaint is the opposite of gratitude. The height of anything a human can ever give to God is gratitude. We literally have nothing else to offer Him. Gratitude is the root of worship. It all begins with giving thanks for what God has given to us, from the big things to the small.
So when we complain, we are giving God the middle finger. We are telling Him that what He has given us is not good enough for us; that He is not good enough for us.
So it seems odd that people my age would complain about becoming adults. We now have the opportunity to build something with our own hands. We have the materials and the resources to really make differences in our communities, but rather than embrace this new season, many of us simply complain about its difficulties.
‘Adulting’ has its difficulties, but I think more than that, it has its promises. It is pregnant with opportunity and excitement. Don’t let the hardships of this new season lead you to depression and complaint. Instead, embrace it. Help the needy. Try something new and fail at it. Then fail a few more times. 99% of you won’t go hungry so stop worrying about it. Create new things and start something that matters.
This year, I intend to work more than I complain, to create more than I stress. I hope you’ll join me. We don’t need to dispose of the word ‘adulting;’ we need to see it as a positive thing rather than a negative. We need to embrace this new season we are entering.
Someone who is kind of tired of complaining.
Well said. I feel similarly when friends of mine- mainly fellow college grads- complain about “adulting.” As you wrote, adulthood brings new sets of challenges but a recent grad’s challenges are relatively mild compared to what many other people face. I love the points you made about complaint being the opposite of gratitude. Adopting a spirit of gratitude is something I’d like to see more churches and Christian groups discuss and emphasize.
Even though millennials are known for being spoiled and entitled, I’ve found cases where unhealthy work environments abuse the people at the bottom. How hard can you work and give and serve (receiving such meager compensation that it would make Lewis Hines’ blood boil) before it strips you of your human dignity…Does God still expect us to be grateful in circumstances of abuse? I guess I’m asking if there’s a difference between complaining and reacting to injustice?