Tricia Goyer is someone I’m not only privileged to call a friend but also a great mentor and role model to me. She takes her calling both as a mom and professional very seriously. Like myself she juggles a lot. Yesterday was a tough day for me and while I didn’t want to grumble, I did want to be honest about my feelings. Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference isn’t it? I love these practical tips from Tricia to help us discern healthy approaches to sharing negative thoughts and feelings with those we trust.~ Michelle
“So how’s everything going?” my husband, John, inquired as I was making dinner. His hands reached up and squeezed my shoulders. I winced at first, then I felt myself relax as he started to rub them.
“Honestly?” I asked as I added the onion to the hamburger I was browning.
“Honestly.” He paused the massage and leaned against the kitchen counter so he could look into my eyes.
“Well, I’m nervous about the book I turned in last week. I haven’t heard anything from my editor yet. And homeschool today wasn’t the best. I lost my temper again. And my feet hurt. I’ve been doing laundry, and I don’t think I’ve sat most of the afternoon.”
John nodded. “How about I take the kids for a walk after dinner— to give you a bit of quiet?”
A soft smile touched my lips. “Thank you. That would be great.”
Commotion sounded from the backyard, and John moved in that direction to investigate. As he did, I bit my lip. Was I just grumbling? I replayed the conversation, worried I was. But as the meat sizzled in the pan, I told myself to relax. John had asked how things were going. And even if he hadn’t, it was okay to tell my husband my worries, the day’s challenges, and my needs. It was something I’d learned—and was still in the process of learning.
Overcoming my internal grumbles, transforming my thoughts and attitude, and talking about my needs—and having them met by the people I loved—had transformed my marriage and my relationship with my kids. My heart had opened up to my family as I realized I could actually share a problem or something that was bothering me and my family would listen. I didn’t have to keep my needs to myself. Instead of internally grumbling, I could be honest and transparent . . . well, at least most of the time.
Even though more than a dozen years had passed since I’d decided to communicate better about what was really going on in my heart, I still felt guilty at times. How I wished I could have smiled and told John, “I had a perfect day. How about you?” But that wouldn’t have been the truth. Trying to keep everything inside doesn’t help anyone. Though the challenge of being able to share what was going on in a truthful way without grumbling had become a thin line, especially as we had added to our family.
Just as our three biological kids were launching into the world, John and I had felt drawn to adoption. In the course of six years we finalized the adoption of seven kids, six of them from foster care, each with their own histories, hurts, and needs.
Even though God placed the desire to adopt on our hearts, and even though we were giving children forever homes, it was one of the hardest periods of our lives. Anger, drama, fits, and hurt feelings happened on a daily basis as the kids struggled with the neglect and trauma from their pasts. John and I also struggled with losing every form of comfort, control, and cleanliness we’d previously known.
Overrun with emotional kids, clutter, and laundry, I soon found myself falling into old habits. My needs multiplied as I ran nonstop to meet the needs of everyone in our home. And not wanting any of these kids to feel unwanted or a burden, my mode of expression returned to grumbles—many voiced, but even more piling up inside, stacking one upon another, building a wall around my heart and stopping the few good emotions from breaking through. I had no joy. I had no order. I had no peace.
Every day I woke up with dread. It would be another day where I had no control and no hope of gaining it. It was a recipe for disaster. I was at an all-time high for grumbles.
If you find yourself struggling with sharing your needs in a positive (no grumbly) way, here are some tips:
- Be honest when people ask with the desire to hear you and to help you. Don’t feel as if you have to hide what’s really going on because you’re worried about complaining. If someone wants to hear your heart, share it with honesty. If someone’s offering help, know it’s alright to explain what you really need. Trying to keep everything inside won’t help. Instead, the complaints will build and become toxic within you.
- Consider motivations. Sometimes people ask about what’s going on, but they really are just nosey. Ask yourself, “Does this people just enjoy listening to (and giving back) rants, or do they really care and want to help? What is his/her motivation?”Consider your own motivation too. Are you just letting off steam or proving you’re a martyr? Are you speaking honestly about your needs or just trying to complain?
- Remember that God cares about your needs, but He hates grumbling. Throughout the Bible we see real people with real needs. We also see God’s response to the way they ask. (Or to the way they don’t ask, but just complain.)
In Exodus 33:12-22, God asked Moses to lead his people, and Moses asked God for a few things in return. Moses asked for God to teach him His ways. Moses asked for God’s Presence to go with them. And He asked to see God’s glory. God did all three for Moses.
On the other hand, God rescued the nation of Israel from the Egyptians, but instead of asking God for provisions in the desert, they complained. God had desired to give them a good land, but their complaints kept that from them. Numbers 14:29 says, “In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me.”
Psalm 106:25 adds, “They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the LORD.” God knew that their grumbling came from the peoples’ heart’s response to Him, which was distrust. It’s the same with us, too. Are we believing and trusting God, or are we simply focusing on what’s wrong?
Yes, all of us have needs, but the important thing is to ask for help from others—and from God—with honesty, with the right motives, and with trust. What is our heart’s response, to complain or to seek help? It makes all the difference.
Tricia’s newest book, The Grumble-Free Year: Twelve Months, Eleven Family Members, and One Impossible Goal, follows the Goyers as they go complaint-free and discover what it looks like to develop hearts of gratitude. They share their plans, successes, failures, and all the lessons learned along the way, offering not only a front-row seat to the action but also real-life steps for uncovering hearts that are truly thankful.
Download the first chapter HERE.
Tricia Goyer is a busy mom of ten, doting grandma, and wife to John. A USA Today bestselling author, Tricia has published seventy books and is a two-time Carol Award winner, as well as a Christy and ECPA Award Finalist. She won the Retailer’’ Best Award in 2015 and has received starred reviews from Romantic Times and Publishers Weekly. She is also on the blogging team at TheBetterMom.com and other homeschooling and Christian sites. Tricia is the founder of Hope Pregnancy Ministries and currently leads a teen MOPS Group in Little Rock, Arkansas. Connect with Tricia on her website here.