Kathy Johnson is a politically moderate Midwesterner who now calls DC home and works in the U.S. House of Representatives. She speaks fluent sarcasm (thanks mom!) and most days needs two things to function: grace and coffee.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been meeting with a few other women on Tuesday mornings for a Bible study. We’re currently reading through Philippians a handful of verses at a time. Each meeting, we discuss what we think that week’s verses mean and how they might practically apply to the situations we are facing in our lives. Philippians 2 focuses on Christ’s example of humility and on being lights in this world, so during the last few weeks we have been challenging each other to try to give up something that is crucial to life on Capitol Hill: complaining.
If complaining were an Olympic sport, Hill staffers would bring home the gold every time. We love to complain: Have we told you about that co-worker who can’t refill the water tank in the Keurig no matter how many times we’ve asked? What about the constituent who called today ranting about something they read on Drudge Report that wasn’t even true? Wait until you hear about that Committee markup that threw off the entire office’s schedule for the day! Personally, I had what should have been a fifteen-minute meeting with the boss stretch to nearly an hour because the Congressmember and the rest of the staff kept bringing up issues that didn’t need to be covered. I was dying the entire time, and I rolled my eyes more than once.
I think that we love complaining about these little things because it adds to our feeling of self-importance. I was inconvenienced, and I want everyone to know about it. But it’s also a dangerous attitude to have. After dwelling on these little inconveniences and indulging your frustrations for a while, they begin to pile up. The result is an atmosphere of resentment and bitterness rather than inclusiveness and geniality. Pretty soon you’re annoyed and standoffish toward that coworker who can’t refill the Keurig water tank, and that coworker thinks you’re a nag. Or you stop paying attention to a constituent’s values or priorities because they’re calling you in response to bad information. You start to think that you have more important things to do, better-informed things to do, and their calls are keeping you from accomplishing those things.
As Christians we’re called to be lights in this world, and as government employees we’re called to be public servants. Callous hearts full of complaints do nothing to answer either of these calls. Rather it alienates us from those around us or from those we’re called to represent. For the past few weeks I’ve had Philippians 2:3 ringing in my ears:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
It’s a challenging message to take to heart. I honestly don’t think that I can go cold-turkey and quit complaining outright--complaining is too ingrained our human nature and in this city’s social culture. But imagine how things could be different if our initial response to inconvenience was love rather than complaint. We need to reorient our hearts toward Christ, so that our first response is love rather than an eye roll.
This week, take time to pray for the staffers who support your Congressional representatives in the House and in the Senate. Consider using an online tool like this one to find out who was working with your Congressmember earlier this year and pray for them by name. Praise God for turning callous, stone hearts into hearts of flesh, and pray that the people working on your behalf in the government can experience some of his rest and regeneration this Christmas season.