Saturday 9 March 2013


The indomitable L.C. Skupien of Retirement Daze recently announced that she had been inspired by another blogger to try and refrain from complaining for a whole month; an admirable endeavour. If anyone were entitled to the odd moan, it would be L.C. She is patience and courage personified.

I loathe people who are habitually dissatisfied and feel entitled to share their dreary monologues with me and if I see someone coming whose conversation is bound to turn into a long moan I cross the road to avoid them. And if I can’t avoid them I plead lack of time to get away from them. But what of those of us who indulge in occasional bouts of complaining? What about me? My first reaction to L.C.'s post was to say :

"Really, no more complaining?
O dear, I wonder if I could do that.

I love raving and ranting and complaining. It lets off steam and afterwards I can get back to admiring the sunny side of life.

If I didn’t complain about politicians, greedy people, unkindness, bigots, the weather,  falling over the dog, I’d have a lot of spare time.”

Is this a matter of “my complaints are justified”, while "yours are misguided” and "his are plainly ridiculous and a great bore”? Is complaining another instance of ‘in the eye of the beholder’?

A long time ago, in another place and life, I was a member of a women’s group. We ostensibly met to keep our brains ticking over while being tied to small children and kitchen sinks but that didn’t stop some of us from spending a lot of time at each meeting complaining about husbands. Not me, I was too embarrassed about my then spouse to hint at his manifold shortcomings in public. But others let their feelings out: inappropriate sex, no sex, too much sex; always out, probably with a floozy; overly finicky and a control freak; mean with money, but spending plenty away from the family.  These regular airings of grievances may have been boring, but the women went home and, for a while, the load had lightened. The letting-off-steam kind of complaining.

Then there’s the righteous-anger-kind of complaining. Politicians or anyone in authority; bankers; the idle and sex-mad young; immigrant benefit scroungers; the filthy rich/undeserving poor; unmarried mothers after a council flat; deviant same-sex-couples who want to get married/ have children; that chap in his fancy car who just cut me up; the woman at the charity do who never ever stays behind to do the dishes; the teenagers who hang around on street corners doing God-knows-what, drugs I shouldn’t wonder, I should like to get hold of their parents; and on and on, take your pick and complain to your heart’s content.

What about going on protest sit-ins or marches? Is protesting about another road cutting through a water meadow, the Iraq war, banker’s bonuses,  the establishment of a gambling/red light district in a city, littering the countryside with wind farms, the destruction of the rain forest, the same as complaining?

I have a lot of experience of the complaining-in-advance method. I was absolutely certain that two meetings last week would prove unbearably dull and irritating. “Why would I want to go to a German conversation group. Nobody there is the least bit fluent and they all look to me to find their words for them.” The other meeting was the writers’ group. “They don’t really want to work at it and that silly little man who annoys me with his desperately dull and lifeless readings will bang on about having to give his creativity free rein instead of being shackled to a theme or challenge.” This kind of complaining-in-advance is also known as complaining-from-a-superior-position. In the event both meetings proved constructive. The German group read - haltingly, but enthusiastically - a piece by an author previously unknown to me and the writers’ group showed willing to try setting themes, while the little man kept quiet - without me having threatened to do him harm!

Maybe there are two sides to this complaining business, as with every blessed thing on this earth. Voicing dissatisfaction with the status quo - also known as nagging in the case of a frustrated housewife, is not necessarily to be deplored, whereas watching injustice and destruction and doing nothing definitely is. Rolling over and letting bad things happen without getting passionately involved is a cop out, an excuse designed to shirk responsibility.

Personally, I am in favour of moaning a little less and doing a bit more of the protesting, and not just for lent.


  1. Strikes me that there is a difference between moaning and complaining.

    Moaning begins and ends with the moan.It lets the steam out...but that's it.

    Complaining means getting involved...just writing the first letter, getting to your feet and questioning a speaker...contradicting the person whose views you find abhorrent.

    Stop complaining for a month? Just what the financial - media - political nexus would love to promote as a campaign!

  2. Too true Friko. Besides the letting off steam sort of griping what good does constant complaining do? One must act.

  3. Giving up complaining for Lent is a great idea, and quite hard. I like your example of complaining in advance and then finding out you needn't have complained, cuz the event went well.

  4. ha. i like the moaning less and protesting more....there is a point where i just stop listening to moaning as it is just unloading crap onto me...i can help carry just not all of it you know...smiles....hmm...might have to try giving up complaining...

  5. I'm all for a Lenten pause to moaning and complaining and a resolve to protest more! Here, we're still protesting the mine and it feels empowering.

  6. Hallo Friko,
    lange Zeit habe ich gedacht, dass die Herum-Nögelei und das Sich-Beschweren ein typisch deutsches Phänomen ist. Zumindest in meinem eigenen Familienkreis und auch bei Freunden kann ich viele benennen, denen man es nicht Recht machen kann und bei denen alles haargenau stimmen muss. Sich-Beschweren hat für mich eher einen negativen Beigeschmack, da es Menschen gibt, die sozusagen "das Haar in der Suppe suchen", um sich beschweren zu können. Auf politischer Ebene - wie Du es beschreibst - sind solche Menschen mit ihrer Meinung nicht unbedingt ernst zu nehmen. Ich kenne viele, bei denen ist es nicht mehr als Meckerei ("Politikerschelte") ohne fundierte Begründung. Was mein Arbeitsumfeld betrifft, sind Beschwerden sehr wichtig, aber im privaten Umfeld habe ich mit so etwas meine Probleme, weil es allzu oft eine Bühne für Halbwissen ist, auf denen sich viel zu viele Wortführer finden.

    Gruß Dieter

  7. Must admit that when I read the title I immediately wanted to skip the post! But knowing that it was you & it would be something worth reading, I decided to stick with it. People who complain all the time are bores, and have gotten into the habit of thinking that complaining=conversation. It's usually good to avoid such negativity. Protests, however, can actually be invigorating.

  8. As my B says, "If we didn't complain, what would we talk about?!?" But I do think complaining is a lot like talking about your children or grandchildren -- you love to talk about your own, but quickly get bored when listening to other talk about theirs.

  9. Like so many things it's a matter of semantics. The 'dreary monologuers' aren't complaining, they're whining. The housewives group isn't complaining, they're bitching & moaning. The protestors aren't complaining, they're protesting(!). So to cut out complaining would actually mean cutting out very little!!!!

  10. Speak your mind - even if your voice shakes. Well aimed slingshots can topple

    Maggie Kuhn, founder Gray Panthers

    Yours without complaint, wishing you ALOHA from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral
    ~ > < } } ( ° > <3
    > < } } ( ° >

  11. Seems to me that's what dog's are for. I can go for a walk with mine and talk to myself and complain to my heart's content and he's just as happy listening as not. An occasional "excuse me while I lift my leg" but otherwise, as content to listen to my complaining as lying in the sun. I can't tell if I'm losing my mind or not but I have come to the conclusion that ignorance really is bliss.

  12. Last November I participated in a month of daily gratitudes on Facebook. I found that throughout the month I was happier. It's good practice to focus on the positive. That being said, I just posted a complaint piece. I haven't given up complaining for good!

  13. This is a concept I will try and embrace. I have often said 'give us this day our daily whinge' on the basis that it is better out than in. Perhaps I have been deluding myself. Less personal complaining, moaning, whinging and grizzling and more protest. Something to aim for - thank you.

  14. I do prefer the Irish word for complaint which is Cnáimhseáil (knawvshawl) which sounds whiney and whingey. I've had a day of it. A friend forced her way into my house when I wasn't there just to drop off a document. I still haven't stopped complaining about it. I get obsessed with such matters and become a complete bore.

    I'll stop now. Thanks Friko.


  15. "complaining-in-advance method" that made me laugh. Ah, everything in moderation, I say. (and I love your rants:)

  16. Hi Friko - so well put over ... we all have our moments, but I do try and not complain or whine or just generally let loose with negative vibes ... there are things I should do more about - sadly I don't want my energy sapped and I don't feel strongly enough - or brave enough for that matter.

    I'm glad you went to the get togethers ... I always regret when I don't do something ...

    Cheers and hope that snow doesn't come down too much or the cold bite in once again ... Spring really is coming .. and Happy Mother's Day - Hilary

  17. i personally think we Brits are pretty lucky - if we run out of other things to complain about there's always the weather.

    Sadly the days when the British would stand in queues for hours tutting under their breath and saying nothing are over and we do complain more and more

  18. I have do admit I do enjoy a little kvetch session. Most of the time it makes me feel better to know that others are feeling the same way. I mean who doesn't have to say something about politics? And as the comment said, there is always the weather! :-)

  19. As you say, Friko, it is just one more of those things in the eye of the beholder. The art of NOT complaining all the time is one of the characteristics I like so much about my mother-in-law, who certainly has seen more of her fair share of sorrow and grief (lost her husband while they were still both in their 40s, lost her youngest son - my husband - 3 years ago, lost her second son 1 year ago, suffers diabetes and several other ailments). Whenever we speak on the phone, we make each other laugh but address the more serious topics, too. I hope I can be a combination of her and my Mum when I get older.

  20. Yes there are two sides. And sometimes being a listener to one who just goes on can be hard but at times it can be rewarding if it helps the speaker who needs to be heard. There has to be a audience for everyone or this would be a compassionless world.

  21. I like to moan and complain about other people's moaning and complaining.
    I go to a message board often where two or three of the members are frequent flyers on the O Poor Me plane. Gad! I am not without compassion, but if someone always and forever moans on and on, always looks for the cloud inside the silver lining, there is no comfort to offer. There is no comfort wanted, really.

  22. What a wonderful post, Friko! You are so right about the difference between whining and complaining, and speaking out to right a wrong. I suppose we all do too much of the former, and not enough of the latter.

    I do admire the lady who could give up complaining for Lent, though. What strength of character and presence of mind!

  23. I agree with the distinction between moaning and protest. Although, I still think there is a place for limited moaning with very dear friends - sometimes you need to just vent a little.

  24. Moaning less and protesting more sounds like a good balance. I find people who are constantly smiling and seeing everything in a rosy light very tiring, almost as tiring as the complainers. With the rosy people, it's an effort to keep up the smiles and positive responses. With the complainers, it's easier to make excuses and leave.

  25. I think complaining can become a bad habit that we slip into without even noticing. For that reason alone it's probably best to avoid it, I think. Although I have to say I don't always succeed!!

  26. Interesting observation. Sometimes we have to let off steam. I try not to, but sometimes I do. Maybe it is a little better tolerated by anyone when we do it less -- they take it a tad more seriously when we finally do!

  27. A thoughtful piece, Friko. I'm all for letting off steam, in the right places, but not for 'dumping' my dissatisfactions on others. Sometimes those who moan are those who feel powerless to take action and change things.

  28. Thank have made me pause and think on the many aspects and kinds of complaining. Perhaps I am to harsh( in my mind, not out loud) on some who complain. I personally could not agree more, sometimes one just does need to let off a little steam.

    Have a great week

  29. Brilliant. I try not to moan too much to others. My poor husband is the one who listens to my rants, not about him, but about others. Perhaps I should also protest more and moan less.

  30. I give up eating meat for Lent - but this year it started jsut as the horse meat scandel erupted, so I can't feel so self righteous ... maybe I should tackle moaning next year - but then what fun would I have?

  31. Friko, I wonder if this poem gives guidance on this subject?

    Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
    Weep, and you weep alone.
    For the sad old earth must borrow it's mirth,
    But has trouble enough of its own.
    Sing, and the hills will answer;
    Sigh, it is lost on the air.
    The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
    But shrink from voicing care.

    Rejoice, and men will seek you;
    Grieve, and they turn and go.
    They want full measure of all your pleasure,
    But they do not need your woe.
    Be glad, and your friends are many;
    Be sad, and you lose them all.
    There are none to decline your nectared wine,
    But alone you must drink life's gall.

    Feast, and your halls are crowded;
    Fast, and the world goes by.
    Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
    But no man can help you die.
    There is room in the halls of pleasure
    For a long and lordly train,
    But one by one we must all file on
    Through the narrow aisles of pain.

    Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)

  32. I love your declension of the irregular verb "to complain". :-)

  33. So, then ... Are we complaining about complaining ... or moaning about complaining? ;-)

  34. I was going to note that it's difficult to define what's "complaining" and what's just good therapy or, better yet, genuine honesty...but then you went through the various types and laid it all out there.

    For me, I don't like steady or predictable negativity. But I don't mind an authentic expression of a reality.

  35. Venting of the spleen ... a worthy exercise every now and then. As I say to my husband after a particularly good bitch session, "Honey, I'll NEVER have an ulcer!"

    1. My father used to say he didn't get ulcers, he gave them! :o)

  36. I listen to quite a lot of moaning, and do more than my fair share. I don't seem to get on all that well with 'glass half full' types.
    My response to people who regularly moan about the same topic is either "it could be worse" (followed by an example which is usually....'you could be me') or, even more annoyingly - "do something to change the problem". That usually sorts out genuine issues from the basic everyday moan because one is frustrated because, let's face it, life can be very dull.

  37. I've found that DOERS complain a lot less, because they are too busy doing something about what is wrong to spend so much time talking about it. We all could use a little moan now & again, but usu not as much as is going around. You don't really hit me as a moaner. What is even better is that when you do moan you couch it with good humor.

    We all have our hidden corners in relationships, & some parts truly should stay hidden. I find it mind-boggling how much, & how menacingly, some complain about their spouses. Jesus, if you married the Devil, don't tell me about it for 2 years, divorce him. ~Mary

  38. I tried giving up complaining, but, then started complaining about giving it up. It seems to me someone has to do it, might as well be me. tee hee

  39. Years ago, I used to play the game of 'Ain't It Awful' with whomever would play. I got that knocked out of me when six of my work colleagues died from various causes (over the course of a couple of years) and by my own heart attack then a stroke.

    Nothing like a good scare to make you wake up and smell the coffee, roses or whatever. Linda is truly an inspiration, but my husband says I still complain.

    Mostly, these days I complain about something mechanical while David complains about pain. Yes, it never helps, but sometimes a good kick gets the darn thing working for better or worse. Except David, I don't kick him.

  40. I think my life is pretty much a combination of being positive and negative depending on circumstances. I wouldn't enjoy a relationship with someone who constantly complained. Even an individual who is perpetually "Little Miss Sunshine" could be wearing over time. I've most enjoyed .those who share the perspective of my sometimes warped sense of humor and we laugh at situations worthy of complaint. There are matters and times when I believe we definitely need to seriously complain

    I recall when my mother was in her old age -- experienced increasing aches, pains, sensory and motor problems but seldom complained. When I queried her about it one time, she said that if she mostly talked about all that no one would want to be around her. Anyone who had constant pain as she later experienced with her sciatica, the steady back pain my husband experienced in later years, would likely be challenged to focus beyond themselves.

  41. I love a good complaining session mixed with a hefty dose of laughter. My pet peeve at the moment is immigrants. Not just the odd ones who come to the UK for good reason, after all I married a Yank. No, the ones who come and want to change us and our way of life. The ones who hate us and want to kill us. I don't think we complain enough. See, there I go again, don't get me started :-). I'm an admirer of the French when it comes to complaining, they actually band together in force and do something about it. I'm all for an uprising. Sorry, I don't think you intended this as a forum for complaint but it feels so goooooooooood! :-)
    Happy days.

  42. So true- better to use all that energy for something positive instead!

  43. I never complain ! I always bitch ! I bitch about the vatican, men, the weather, politicians, taxes etc etc. In short, things others complain about !

  44. Such good points, Friko. Probably everyone has a different style for coping with the things that annoy them.

  45. Habitual complainers - those with the continuous upside-down smile - make me cross the road too.

    But the need to complain (when appropriate) exists - for otherwise we would all be downtrodden...and miserable about it...and would complain about it...

    I like protesting (when appropriate) too - and do so when the need arises...

    Anna :o]

  46. ik ben het helemaal met je eens.


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