Sometimes, I have meandering thoughts that eventually arrive at something resembling a coherent argument. Today, I’ve been thinking about men who complain. Generally, I think complaining is a bad look. It indicates weakness. An athlete who complains to a referee or umpire about an opposing player’s tactics has revealed his weakness. At that moment, if not before, the opposing player knows he’s getting to the guy. He knows he’s bothering him. He knows his plan is working. He knows he’s touched a nerve and found a weakness. Similarly, when a man complains, he shows his weakness. He shows what bothers him. He shows what he hasn’t conquered.
Complaints fall into two categories: complaints about things we can change and about things we cannot change. Complaints about things that we cannot change, that are beyond our control, seem worthless. Our complaints won’t change the weather and won’t stop misfortunes in our lives. “But we’re just venting.” Okay, I get it. Perhaps complaining a bit helps you to blow off steam and readjust your perspective. Perhaps that’s legitimate. But the problem with venting is that, unless it’s restrained to a single, brief occurrence, it often perpetuates the negative state of mind. If you’re continually venting about something, you’re continually keeping it at the forefront of your mind, thereby bringing yourself down instead of moving on. As a result, such complaints should be both rare in their occurrence and limited in length. If you’re regularly complaining about things beyond your control, you have a problem: a maturity problem, which is a manhood problem.
There’s a quote attributed to Teddy Roosevelt that “[c]omplaining without offering a solution is called whining”. We all understand that whining is not becoming of men. It’s what children do, and immature children at that. I don’t put up with whining from my kids, so I’d damn sure better not put up with it from myself.
The other category of complaints is about things we can change. I see and hear people all the time complaining about how tired they are, how they wish they had more of something (money, time, muscle, etc.), or less of something (fat, stress, debt, etc.). Those are all actionable topics, and they make up the bulk of the complaints in life. As weightlifting champion Jon North would say, “love your life or change it”. But do not complain about the life that you have created for yourself.
Now, perhaps we just got to the heart of most complaints about things we can change. Most of us don’t really believe that we are complaining about the life we created. Many of us, at some level, believe we are complaining about the crappy hand in life that we’ve been dealt. We blame our parents, our genetics, our teachers, our bosses, our spouses, our children, our friends, the government, and countless others for the discontentments of our lives. That’s not how a man operates. He doesn’t look for or dwell on ways in which he’s been the victim. He looks for areas that we wants to change. And he takes action. If he’s not sure what action to take, he seeks advice and education. But if he’s unwilling to take action, he keeps his mouth shut, because he knows that he is in the situation because that’s the path he has chosen. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin would call this mode of operation “extreme ownership”. That’s what a man does; he takes extreme ownership of his life and of the way his life impacts others.
When you have this mindset, you see the world differently. Instead of obstacle, you see opportunity. That’s not just rah-rah, positive-thinking bullshit. Here’s an example: I was reading on Facebook about a guy who was complaining about how a first-aid class in his area was overpriced. A man should never complain about how expensive something is. In fact, when a man finds something that he believes is overpriced, whether it’s a good or a service, he should be excited, because that’s an opportunity for him to enter the market and make money. For if the item is actually overpriced, he can enter the market and steal the market share for himself by offering the good or service at a reasonable price.
After a bit of market research, he might find that the item wasn’t overpriced at all; in fact, he might find that it was priced pretty low compared to the costs involved. But all of that is beside the point, which is that a man takes action rather than merely complaining. And those types of situations are a great example of how a man who takes ownership of his life sees the world differently, finding opportunity instead of obstacle.
So, simply put, complaining is not manly. If the object of your complaint is beyond your control, complaining won’t prevent it or change it. In fact, complaining about it likely just causes you to dwell on it even more, thus perpetuating a negative state of mind and multiplying the impact of the unfortunate event. If the object of your complaint is within your ability to change, then shut your mouth and get moving. It’s what men do.