it’s time to be civil (31)


# 21. Refrain from idle complaints. … This rule is not about justified remonstrations. A civil voicing of your displeasure is certainly appropriate when you must deal with the morose and/or incompetent sales clerk, the truant waiter, the hostile cabdriver, the disruptive child, the pushy coworker, the unreasonable boss, the arrogant law enforcer, the nosy in-law, and the nosy neighbor – to name just a few. In these cases you speak your mind not only out of self-respect and do something about your current problem but also in the hope of helping those who will have to deal with the problem maker in the future. There is always the chance that your speaking up will cause good change.

This rule is not about the occasional therapeutic sharing of woes, either. Indeed, there can be comfort in complaining. 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, is more interested in assigning blame than in finding solutions, and is rooted in the feeling that life is unfair. … 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.

Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni (St. Martin’s Press, 2002); pp. 136-137