8th Friday in Ordinary Time
“Be hospitable to one another without complaining.” The Dutch word for “hospitality” means literally “the freedom of the guest.” In a deep sense to be “hospitable” to another is to make them feel welcome and at home in our presence, free to be themselves, at ease; neither ignored nor micro-managed.
St Peter counter-poses hospitality with complaining. While there is such a thing as “instrumental” or constructive complaint that leads to a positive goal, studies by psychologists show that this accounts for less than 25% of cases.
One book gives the top 5 reasons WHY people complain as follows, according to the acronym “G-R-I-P-E”
-Power over others
-Excuse poor performance
Understanding what people are really after when they complain and speaking to that need (rather than for instance, challenging or agreeing with their complaint) is one way to be “hospitable to one another without complaining.”
A good host has the opposite motives to the complainer: he is attentive to his guest and not seeking to hog attention for himself; he takes responsibility for the needs and comfort of his guest, and shows the generosity that rejoices and is honored by the gifts of his guest and not envious. A good host cultivates “the freedom of his guest” rather than grasping after power for himself. Rather than excusing one’s poor performance, hospitality involves a readiness to admit fault and take it upon oneself, to cover over the faults of the guest with charity.
St James enjoins his readers: “Stop complaining that you may not be judged.” The expression recalls the Lord’s words “Stop judging that you may not be judged” and suggests something else that’s wrong with complaining. It very often includes a good degree of “mind-reading” in which we attribute (negative) motives to our brother when there is no way we could know what’s in his heart.
One type of complaint is “venting”; here the complainer wants attention and sympathy; no solution to the situation they complain about is ever acceptable because they don’t really want a resolution to their problem, they want to feel validated. Studies have shown that in exchanges where one person “vents” to another BOTH parties come away feeling badly. In this way also complaining is inhospitable. It alienates others instead of making them welcome.
Jesus invites us: “Make your home in me as I make mine in you; if you make my word your home you will truly be my disciples; you will know the truth of my courteous, discriminating hospitality and it will make you free, as only the guest of a truly gracious host can be. As we come to be more and more deeply at home in the Word we become more at home in ourselves and in the world. Grounded in this way and stable, we can extend a presence that makes others welcome.
Lastly: the text right after “Be hospitable to one another without complaining” reads: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” When we cultivate and celebrate our gifts, using them generously for the common good instead of stifling them or using them to prop up our ego… we won’t feel the need to complain but instead as good stewards, will recognize and encourage “God’s varied grace” in each of our brothers and sisters.