Robin Gericke, Features Editor/Contributing Writer
We live in a culture filled with negativity and complaining, resulting in a loss of stated appreciation for almost everything in life. I find it easier to complain about something than compliment it. Social media makes it easy to share our opinions, and these are often not uplifting or encouraging. As millennials, we already have a reputation for being impatient and entitled, only to be proven true by our habitual complaining.
This culture of complaining is prevalent on college campuses, and Asbury is no exception. We complain about the caf food. We complain about the difficulty of our classes and the teaching methods of our instructors. We complain about the cold and the wind. We complain about our dorms and our halls and our RD’s rules and Discovery and the distance to the Cage and the wi-fi. Because we are paying for college, we feel entitled that everything should serve us perfectly. And these are things I am consistently guilty of.
But why do we complain so much? There is a false positive created by the inclusiveness of an unappeasable and whiny culture, which is why complaining draws everyone in. No one has to be excluded from the complaining clique; in fact, we seem to bond with those who dislike the same things as us. Not everyone can love all their classes and enjoy the caf food every day, but we can all find something to complain about. If we can’t sincerely complain (but who can’t?), we can play along and make it up. Complaining unites all of us, and that inclusion gives us a false sense of community. Yet what community can stand on negativity?
I have seen the clear effects of this culture and attitude in my own life. When I was home at Christmas break, in catching up with people about college, I was often asked how the cafeteria food was. I replied that it was actually really good and there were always a lot of options. Yet once I was back on campus, if a friend was complaining about the caf food, it was easy for me to complain, too.
Most of us, myself included, have also adapted to be welcomed in this faux community by pretending to be a worse student than I am. I am sure many of us did this in high school, and it is a behavior I developed at the community college I attended before Asbury. Students would complain about a challenging class and how terrible the professor was at teaching. I developed the skill of finding the balance between downplaying my academic values while not outright lying in an effort to be accepted. After all, if I replied that actually, I found the class easy because I studied and I thought the professor was great, it would likely come across as bragging to a student speaking negatively. While Asbury students tend to not be as openly disrespectful in comparison to my community college experience, I still find myself adapting to blend in to a discontented community.
The best way to overcome negativity is with gratitude, and with gratitude comes a loss of the entitlement so many people of our generation feel. We can live out the commandment in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” If we make gratitude, rather than dissatisfaction, our default emotion, complaints will evaporate over time. I can be grateful for an ample supply of food and the opportunity to receive higher education. I will lose the sense of entitlement that the food in the caf must appeal to me personally at every meal and that my college courses should be easy. I will not just accept that there are seasons and that winter is cold, but also be awestruck by God’s creation. I will be thankful for the girls on my hall and accept that with community comes mess and noise. This will often be a discipline rather than a natural reaction, but over time it can shape our minds and our hearts to a posture of positivity and thankfulness.
Beyond that, it is also necessary to show this shift in our words and our actions. We can speak respectfully and positively of our professors. We can email the caf when we really enjoy a meal or to simply show our appreciation. When others around us complain or speak negatively about something, we can make a conscious effort to not take part in the complaining community but instead, gently speak in gratitude. If we all make an effort to lessen our complaints and speak and act with gratitude, we could change the culture and community of complaining to one of gratitude and positivity.