Do You Complain Constructively?

In this blog post, let's reflect on the pitfalls of complaining and draw insights from the Torah's Parsha Beha’aloscha. Using examples of constructive and destructive complaints from the scripture, this post encourages you to assess whether your complaints are made with positive intentions and contribute to deeper connections with your loved ones. Consider the impact of complaints on relationships, complaints should be driven by a desire to connect rather than venting anger or negativity.

Written by Kevin S. Bemel

Wednesday, 03 June 2015 03:30

When my wife and I were dating I decided it would be a good idea to let her know how much living in a cluttered house with things out of place bothered me. I knew it wouldn’t work to hold her to my standard, but at times I feel compelled to remind her when things get particularly out of hand. Over the years I’ve worked to be more mindful of why and when I do so. This week’s parsha, Beha’aloscha, explains the potential pitfall I face:

There were men who were spiritually impure [because of contact with] a dead person, and were not able to make the Passover sacrifice on that day. And they approached before Moses and before Aaron on that day. (Numbers/Bamidbar 10:33)

Do You Complain Constructively?

This Sabbath’s parsha covers lighting the Menorah, the consecration of the Levites, bringing the Korban Pesach (Passover Offering) and Pesach Sheini (second Passover); the cloud and pillar of fire with which G-d led the Children of Israel and other aspects of their travels, the people who complained about eating the Manna and what G-d did about it, and Miriam’s affliction with tzaraas.

The parsha gives two contrasting examples of how to approach a relationship with G-d.

First we see some people who went to Moses to complain that because they had become tamei (spiritually impure) from handling a dead body they were not allowed to bring the Korban Pesach. They were upset since this offering brings a person closer to the Almighty by showing appreciation for being liberated from Egyptian slavery. G-d responds by designating a second Pesach at which not only those who are tamei but those who are on a distant road may bring a Korban Pesach. Because the intention behind their complaint was to get closer to Him the result is more favorable than they requested.

In the case of those who complained about the Manna the situation was different. Some sources say the Manna took on the flavor of a person’s favorite food. In any event it was a spiritually, as well as, physically nourishing food. Why complain?

Rashi, the well known and prodigious Torah commentator, notes there was no cause for complaint, rather they were just looking for an excuse to distance themselves from the Creator. They spread ingratitude and disaffection for no reason. Nothing positive was accomplished. Nonetheless, G-d sent them quail to eat. But there was so much of it they became disgusted. In the end the Almighty killed the leading protestors.

When you complain to your loved ones: spouse, parents, children, or friends, are you doing so in a constructive way and for positive reasons? Or are you merely blowing off steam, sowing divisiveness, and habituating them to negativity that creates separation?

When I complain about chaos in our house, I must ask myself: will this bring a deeper sense of shalom bayis (peace in the home) or am I only venting anger over some other issue?

The Creator wants you striving for greater closeness to Him in part to learn how to replicate such a relationship with your family and friends. One errant complaint offsets numerous positive interactions. Make sure the next time you complain it is out of desire to connect more deeply with the other person. I think you’ll find yourself behaving differently than in the past.

How do you make sure your complaints aren’t selfish?

© 2023, Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved

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