What Mr. Chapin Taught Me About Complaining- And Why It Matters

I grew up in a small farming community in North West Pennsylvania. Our school was small  which gave you the opportunity to build relationships with a wide range of students and teachers. One teacher that all of us had at some point was Mr. Chapin. Mr. Chapin was our Junior High (we weren’t even a Middle School) English Teacher. He was a bit of a crazy character. He was shocked when there were students who didn’t know the song, “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road,” and when some of our classmates confessed to never seeing “A Christmas Story,” a TV and VCR was in class the next week and we watched it.

I remember one class (probably many classes) where a classmate was complaining (I don’t think it was me) and after the rant was finished, Mr. Chapin looked right at the student and said, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” The student stammered and couldn’t come up with a response. The student was just, well, complaining. Mr. Chapin then told us, “Don’t complain unless you are going to do something about it.”

That stuck with me, more than the grammar lessons; more than diagramming a sentence (still can’t do that). I think it stuck with me because I am prone to complaining. It stuck because I often complain without anything constructive to add to the discussion.

There are a lot of reasons to complain. But if we are not ready to get involved to make the situation better, then we don’t really have a reason to complain. It’s not enough to sit around complaining without having something or doing something constructive to add.

  • Don’t like the current political landscape and culture? Work to improve it and make it better.
  • Don’t like your church? Stop complaining and ask the pastor/leader how you can help make the church the best church it can possibly be.

Mr. Chapin taught me, and I need to remember, that it is not enough to complain. That each of us have tools and gifts to improve the situation for ourselves and for those around us. The question is do we care enough to get involved? Or do we just enjoy the sound of our own voice?

About Steve LaMotte

Husband of Andrea and father of four amazing children. Pastor at Avenue United Methodist Church in Milford, Delaware.
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