Certain cultures have refined the art of whining down to a precise set of behaviors that each believes is acceptable. Americans have a reputation for being loud, with over the top expressions of frustration and anger, saying and doing anything to achieve whatever they think justice should be. The English in contrast have the art of quietly complaining while patiently waiting for a resolution. Without regard of who is listening or willing to hear, their words go on without end. When a resolution is offered, fair or not, the complaining may continue but likely as not, it will be accepted. Mainland Chinese tend to act in ways that remind me of the Americans, except everything is in Mandarin. With the additional language complexity, the intensity often becomes personal – individual versus individual – until the one complaining gets their demand.
As I reflect on the lessons in diplomacy, empathy, and community, I wonder if we, myself included, have lost our grip on the art of lament. I do not believe the singular solution to pain, hurt, and injustice is money and compensation. While accountability and responsibility may lead to compensation, there is more to the story.
In situation when one is hurt, expressing the depths of one’s pain and anguish often begins the healing process within. Without regard for resolution, a true, full, and soul cleansing lament can begin to purge the toxins within our hearts and souls. As a great blues song reminds us, it is often in the fullest expressions of grief that we are able to rediscover the Hope that was always within. A Psalmist laments how “blinded by tears of pain and frustration. I call to you, God; all day I call. I wring my hands, I plead for help.” (Psalm 88.9) In these moments, I am most open to Divinity’s touch of love, compassion, and care.
I have come to appreciate that the enduring question we wrestle with is the same in pain and celebration; how will I live this moment to the maximum? Our story lies in the answer to this question.