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Mom with a View


Stop complaining and do something productive instead.


Apparently the NBA recently instituted a ban on whining (could they come to my house?) It seems to include not just verbal kvetching but even such actions as eye rolling or waving your arms in disgust (I’d like to get them involved with some adolescents I know!) While this is certainly a step forward for the NBA, I’m much more concerned about the prevalence of whining in the general population. In fact, I didn’t even know that basketball players had such a problem with whining until I read about the new rule.

However, in society at large it is a serious issue. And I’m concerned about it for a number of reasons – some clearly selfish and some less so. In the self-interest category, I have to state that it is just really unpleasant to spend any significant time with people who whine (Am I at risk of being one of those people right now?) It’s certainly a test of my patience. I like to think it’s not because I’m lacking in compassion (although there’s always room for growth) but rather because I believe in engaging in productive activity. If something isn’t working, do what you can to change it. If there is nothing practical to do, ask the Almighty for help. If the Almighty seems disinclined to do so, then we need to accept the situation as presented. Self-pity is destructive to its subject and painful to the listener.

Everyone’s life has challenges. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by them. Sometime we need to share our struggles with a friend. We need sympathy, empathy, or perhaps advice. This is not the same as whining.

What sets whiners apart seems to be the fact that they ALWAYS have something to complain about (at the restaurant the service is awful, at home the kids aren’t behaving, their friend’s husband makes more money, the cleaning lady doesn’t work as hard as she should – you’ve met them, right?), they frequently adopt a particularly grating tone when they do so and they seem uniquely resistant to actually taking action to try to improve their situation.

By listening to whiners we become their enablers (Whiners Anonymous, anyone?). We permit and give legitimacy to their constant complaints. We foster the belief that their life really is rough, their wife is unusually difficult, their boss is definitely abusive, their children poorly behaved. The whiner is encouraged to feel sorry for him or herself, wallowing in self-pity instead of working towards a solution. The whiner also clings to the position that he or she is the aggrieved party – everyone else is always wrong; the whiner is always right.

This argues against any growth on the part of the whiner, against any self-reflection or introspection. It is not a kindness on our part to indulge this self-destructive behavior and listen to the whiner. It just encourages them on this negative path.

We also want to nip in the bud their constant litany of complaints against their spouses or children. It is not healthy for their family life. They need to be shown a positive way of looking at their situation; they need a reframe. They need to work on a rosier outlook and stop blaming others for their problems. Above all, whining is the avoidance of responsibility; whiners need to turn this around by stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for their lives and choices.

Basketball now has obvious penalties for whining. It has referees to catch the players and enforce the new rules. We, on the other hand, must manage on our own. And yet we need to be on a higher alert since the personal consequences are so much greater.

November 13, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 6

(5) Rivka, July 13, 2015 8:35 PM

Self-Defeating (also self-fulfilling prophecy, in a way)

"We permit and give legitimacy to their constant complaints. We foster the belief that their life really is rough . . ."etc. You then go on to say that this leads them to "wallow in self pity" and that they are "uniquely resistant to taking action to improve their situation," and that may very well be true. BUT:
a) sometimes, people with real, big problems and hardships are misunderstood as whiny when, in fact, the people listening are looking for whininess and jumping on something that it isn't. sometimes, life really IS rough, and "not fostering it" is only denial. besides, why would these people see any NEED to try harder in life if their problems were denied? parts of this article defeat its own purpose.
b) sometimes what people NEED is to know that someone else UNDERSTANDS, even if that does not directly lead to specific action, directed from their discussion. sometimes, they really need to know -- from an outsider -- that their thoughts are justified, which, thus, gives them the chizuk that they will later use to change.
c) if what the listener has heard isn't whining, but they perceive it as being, in fact, whining, and say so, thus denying the so-called "whiner" 's problems, they will only cause REAL whining, to them or to someone else, later. it's really self-defeating to claim something non-whiny to be whiny, and compassion, caution, and a dose of good judgment are definitely required for anyone listening to other people.

I myself have had too many experiences with other people not listening to me properly or believing me, partly due to this whole concept, and I don't want anyone else to suffer the same.

p. s. I really do like most of the other articles by this same author, but I feel this one is controversial.

(4) Bernice, November 17, 2010 11:56 PM

A Complaint Free World

There's a wonderful book and movement called A Complaint Free World, where people begin to notice their own habits and work at not complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. The world is a sweeter place without these things.

(3) Anonymous, November 17, 2010 5:49 AM

Not enough compassion

Dear Mrs. Braverman, Yes, there are too many whiners and everyone takes something in their life for granted at least to some extent. But I fear that you are making light of people who are TRULY suffering. Perhaps those who do not have the spouse, the child and or the support system. There are those who suffer from clinical depression. For some it is situational, for others it is biological and at times it's a combination. But the last thing this person needs to hear is "To just snap out of it" and worse "That it is within their control" Anyone who says this obviously hasn't suffered through the hell of sadness, anxiety and depression! I find that this is most common in the Jewish religious community. Why is this, when we're supposed to have even MORE compassion? Too many individuals already blew off good friends because they just couldn't be there for someone who was down, and expected their friends "to snap out of it" so I really wish that you'd write a seperate article regarding fair weather friends and serious depression perhaps? Again, I do want to reiterate that yes there are whiners and that speaking about ones spouse or children is simply put LASHON HARA.

Anonymous, July 13, 2015 8:38 PM

Thank you; I completely agree

As much as excessive complaining is annoying, universally, a certain amount is necessary sometimes, and just 'not complaining' will only poison a person from the inside out! It behooves us all to just work on solutions to the problems behind the complaining!

(2) judy, November 16, 2010 8:21 PM

wining ruins your personality

My mother always taught that wining ruins your personality. A good personality being a cheerful disposition. People do generally like to be around cheerful people. Maybe not Polyanna but cheerful nevertheless. That is not to say that a family cannot sit down and have an open discussion on issues that need to be resolved. Some families carry not wining to an extreme, where children can never feel they can express their needs and hurts and get nurturing in difficult situations. But just developing a personality to complain about everything with no positive outcome is another story.

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