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Why Do We Complain?

“I have a present for you!” These words are enough to excite almost anyone, and when I heard them one day on vacation, back when I was 12 years old, they were enough to get me out of the water and sprinting up the beach to meet my mother. When I reached her, she pulled a t-shirt out from behind her back and handed it to me. Engulfed in a dramatic flurry of emotion, I burst into tears. In that moment, I couldn’t help but feel offended. Printed in large letters on the front of the shirt were the words “Official Member of the Piss and Moan about Everything Club.” They were insulting, but accurate.

Growing up as a triplet, I was used to not getting my way, and I often expressed my distaste for compromise and desire for attention in the form of a tirade of complaints. Honestly, not much has changed since then. I still find myself constantly complaining about the frustrating and annoying things in my life—most of which I can’t change.

We are all guilty of complaining, usually about trivial matters. But why do we complain? Is it just a natural reaction we have? Is complaining constructive or destructive in our lives?

Get ready. I’m about to complain to you about complaining.

We overhear complaining all the time at BC—around campus, in class discussions, or in the dining hall—about everything from the weather to food to grades to homework. First we say it snows too much and it’s an inconvenience, and then we complain that it’s not snowing enough because we want class cancelled. I know I’m guilty of spending more time telling my friends about how difficult my workload is than I spend actually getting the work done.

In the grand scheme of things, these hackneyed complaints we all have are trivial and insignificant when compared to the crises and “real problems” in the lives of those who are truly suffering around the world. We waste more time than we’d like to admit complaining about things —an action which has virtually no benefit or effect—instead of taking action to make a change or coming to accept the things that we cannot change.

But is complaining always pointless? I don’t think so. Complaining doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. In fact, complaining can take positive forms. When we protest about issues such as the Muslim travel ban and raise awareness about problems such as the lack of LGBTQ resources on campus, we are coming together to show solidarity for a common cause that can inspire real change. This expression of dissatisfaction has a purpose when it concerns a significant matter that can be improved.

Constructive complaining and the exercising of our freedom of speech can be healthy and is often necessary. However, it’s important to step back and assess each situation to decide whether complaining is worth our time and energy. Especially if our complaints will not be constructive or will be destructive. We are some of the luckiest people in the world to have the opportunity to be here at BC, surrounded by caring friends and faculty, getting a top tier education that will set us up for a successful future. Maybe 14 inches of snow, walking up the Million Dollar Stairs, or waiting 20 minutes for a Steak and Cheese isn’t so bad after all….

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