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P.M. Forni on Whining and Spreading Misery

Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct (Macmillan: 2003), pp. 137-8.

What concerns me here, instead, is the continuous or recurring complaining that is an unwarranted spreading of misery. It is the kind that bespeaks helplessness rather than assertiveness, it more interested in assigning blame than in finding solutions, and is rooted in the feeling that life is unfair. Now, disappointments, disheartening setbacks, and dreams that fail to become reality are an inevitable part of being alive. Every day you spend on earth, however, also gives you an abundance of reasons to be grateful. It is up to you to choose between giving in to dissatisfaction and resentment and embracing contentment and joy. My suggestion is that you make every effort to start walking toward joy today, not only for your own good but for the good of those closest to you as well.

What’s wrong, exactly, with idle complaining? It is bad because concentrating on problems rather than solutions reinforces a pessimistic outlook on life. And it is bad for those around you because it spreads your pessimism to them. Pessimism is like deliberate trudging in the mud. When you complain, you stick your unfortunate listeners in your own mud and you drag them along with you for no good reason.