I cannot tell you how many folks come in and start a counseling session by saying, “I don’t want to come in and just be a whiner,” or “I feel like I am just whining about my circumstances.” Then they begin to talk about legitimately challenging situations in an awkward tone of embarrassment. When they are finished they apologize again.
This strikes me as odd. First, why would people schedule a counseling appointment and then apologize for discussing their struggles? I don’t think I apologize to my doctor when I am sick. Although I did when I got a bad case of poison ivy while doing something stupid, but that’s another story for another post and I should have apologized to my wife not my doctor.
I fear that the answer to this first question is rooted in how disinterested and detached our culture and (too often) our churches have become. This leads me to my second question.
Second, why do we feel like discussing our struggles is whining? By this definition of whining large portions of the Bible would have never been written.
- Job would have been gutted
- Psalms, which discusses suffering, would be omitted
- Proverbs would not contain many verses on getting counsel or listening to others
- Ecclesiastes would be unnecessary
- Lamentations would be unbearable
- Paul would have had little information to trigger the writing of his letters
- James would have never known of the suffering of the dispersed Christians
- I Peter would also be missing
Consider Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The implication of this verse is that if we are not bearing one another’s burdens, then we are not fulfilling the law of Christ (strong charge!). This requires knowing each other’s struggles.
A quick definition of true (negative) whining – sharing a problem, not wanting another perspective on the issue, with no intention of doing anything differently, hoping the other person will fix it for you or just be miserable with you.
My burden is that this is NOT what the people in my office are doing, but they still feel like they have to apologize for sharing their burden. This is wrong! Many of our struggles become so intense because we do not share them with others while those struggles are more manageable. By the point of sharing, they may be so overwhelmed that they either only feel like whining or need the help of a well-trained counselor.
THE POINT: The Bible does not expect change to occur in isolation or privately. Actually, the Bible seems to assume that the more private we keep our struggles (both sin and suffering) the more intense our struggles will become. Therefore, let us “whine” like the Bible models. Let us discuss our struggles within our community of faith seeking hope, encouragement, and direction from those God has given us to share life with.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on the Church and Counseling” post which address other facets of this subject.