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Three Negative Things Happen When a Husband Grumbles - Part 2 Grumpy Husbands [Video]

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Many grumbling husbands do not see the negative results of their grumbling. Instead, they only see that after grumbling they feel better, others will empathize with them, and God will be prompted to act on their behalf (or should). However, just the opposite happens. Let me explain what I refer to as the inward, outward, and upward results.

Inward Result

Grumbling makes a man feel better in the moment. As the T-shirt says, “I Enjoy Being Grouchy.” As some women feel better after venting and complaining, so do grumpy men. However, men tend to grumble with fewer words; they are more muted. Their spirit is annoyed and angry, and interestingly, they do not wish to talk about their feelings in order to feel better. Instead, they prefer to pout about the injustice while watching TV or doing some task. The grumbling releases the pent-up indignation. In an odd way, they feel relatively happy as they grumble about their unhappiness. Is this not why they grumble day after day?

I am not prescribing that a husband grumble, only trying to figure out why, in his mind, he keeps grumbling day after day. There has to be a motive, and one motivation is that it makes him feel better. People keep doing what gives them a degree of pleasure, otherwise why would they keep doing it?

Though grumbling results in the husband feeling better for a few seconds, it also persuades him that he has it worse than he does. Grumbling is not only an expression of his negative feelings, it intensifies and escalates his negative feelings. Grumbling fools him. It blinds him to the positives in the situation and he stays fixed on the victimization. This, then, causes him to overlook what he can do to turn lemons into lemonade. The very man who can’t stand his wife’s ongoing complaints, because her complaints reinforce and perpetuate her negativity, does the same with his grumbling. His grumbling turns him into a negative, pessimistic, grumpy man. Long-term grumbling makes him feel horrible inside. It really does not bring any degree of release to his frustrations and misery, but only adds to them.

Outward Result

A grumbler thinks that he gains empathy from others. Whereas many wives complain and criticize with the hope and expectation that others will empathize and say, “I am so sorry,” males grumble to garner another’s understanding. However, unlike the complaining woman, the grumbling man does not necessarily want to talk with the empathizer. Usually a husband prefers the empathizing wife to let him grouse for a short period of time without her negative reaction. He might wish to hear from her, “I know this may feel unfair and disrespectful to you, but that is not the intent here." Most often he likes to be left alone to let the cortisol drain from his physical system within the hour, and then he is good to go. Rarely does he want his wife to say, “Let’s talk about your feelings.” Grumbling is non-verbal because he wants to keep it non-verbal with his wife.

But grumbling to cause empathy just persuades others that they do not want to be around him. As best they can, they avoid him. A woman once emailed me saying, "The children love him, but they don’t like to be around him because they think he is grumpy.” Another wife went further by saying, "My husband's stonewalling and angry withdrawal had gotten so bad that I was ready to just walk away from the marriage so that in the last days of my life I could have some peace. I wasn't going to divorce him because I knew I didn't have grounds, but I surely did not want to live with this grumpy guy anymore."

Wives feel vulnerable around grumpy husbands. These wives personalize the grumpiness rather than understand it. Most wives think they cause it, or that he is inappropriately annoyed or angry at her. In her earlier encounters, she tries to soothe his agitation. She tries to find out what flusters him and why. She feels if he can talk about it he will feel better, as she does after talking. When she feels bothered and talks about it with someone who cares, whatever gnaws at her feels less distressing. Her negative feelings evaporate for the moment. However, when a lovely and loving wife approaches her husband with questions about his feelings, he seems more annoyed. She feels as though she poked a bear. This explains the common statement by wives, “I walk on eggshells around him.” Grumpiness does not gain a wife’s compassion, but engenders confusion, fear, and distance.

The very respect that he thinks ought to come to him on the heels of his grumbling, (because he is righteously indignant about the way others treat him) does, in fact, not come. Internally, people do not feel respect for him. They see him as the problem, which is why the Bible warns the grumbler. We read in Philippians 2:14-15, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”

Did you catch the point? Grumbling does not prove one is blameless and innocent but causes others to think, “You know, I think he is far more guilty and to blame than he is willing to own up to.” Grumbling does not remove the reproach but causes others to accuse him of creating or exacerbating the problem.

Does this mean he has no grounds for complaint? Maybe he does. But the injustice that he feels coming at him and about which he grumbles is pushed to the shadows by his grumbling. The substance of his concern is minimized or ignored by others because he removes their appetite to side with him. They do not care to defend a grumpy looking man. They see him as less innocent than he claims and guiltier than he admits.

Because they see how unloving he is in relationship to them, they have no interest in his complaint. In scowling, he sends the message, “Treat me with respect!” But few do. Instead, the message they hear in his scowl is, “I hate everybody who wrongs me! I have no love for people who bother me!” The more he claims that others are to blame, the more they see him as the culprit. Bottom line, he gains no empathy but just the opposite.

Upward Result

Grumbling allows the man to tell God that he feels unjustly treated and dishonored with the underlying wish that God will honor him and speedily bring about justice. Feeling spiritually indignant, he protrudes his lower spiritual lip. He sulks and pouts against God, as though such grumbling motivates God to change his mind. Grumbling is a man’s attempt to make God feel bad for what He did but should not have done, or feel bad for what He didn’t do but should have done.

Jonah is such an individual. As you might recall, God called Jonah to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. However, Jonah preferred God damn these evil people instead of forgiving them. To Jonah, God’s compassion runs contrary to the need for justice! When God extends grace to this repentant people, Jonah resents God. What God did “greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry” (Jonah 4:1). God asks Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry...?" He answers, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death” (4:9). To Jonah, God did what He should not have done (forgive), and God did not do what He should have done (punish).

A wife says about her husband, “My husband was once a youth pastor who is now running from God! His heart is so hard towards God. I take my 3 children to church, but he refuses to go. I really don't know why, but I’m guessing one reason is he is mad at God and feels like He did not come through for him at certain times when he needed Him." There it is: God is not coming through.

A husband wrote to me saying, “Every time my youngest daughter prays, she asks God to put her family back together, and it breaks my heart because I don't know if that's going to happen anymore. I'm at the point where I feel like giving up…I'm a little bit mad at God right now. I don't understand why He doesn't do anything about it. Especially after reading about how he feels about marriage and divorce in the Bible."

Here is another man—same theme, different story. "The worst part right now is God. Where the hell is He? There is no comfort. There is nothing but pain. I am so mad at God right now. I have no one at church who understands what I am going through...I don't have a support group. I only have God, and He is not bringing me any comfort or hope…I almost feel like Job, never wishing I was born...I am so tired. Nothing that I do is working…Why am I trying? Is it because I don't want to look bad in front of all the people that I have told that I am a Christian? I like to believe that, in some part, I don't want to bring shame to God's name, but I don't know anymore…He tells me to stay focused on Him. Why? As I believe that I am moving toward Him, it just gets harder, with less hope."

Grumbling against God is a serious matter. Read these scriptures:

Exodus 16:8—Moses said, “This will happen when the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the LORD hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the LORD."

Psalm 106:25—“...but grumbled in their tents; they did not listen to the voice of the LORD.”

Numbers 14:27—"How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me."

Apparently, the grumpy male thinks that his grumbling makes God feel bad enough to change his treatment plan. “Come on God, answer my prayer and the prayer of my daughter to restore our family!” Or, if it is too late for things to change, since one cannot change things that have passed like the death of a daughter due to a car accident or a mother dying of cancer, his grumbling is his way of trying to punish God for His wrongdoing in allowing a loved one to die. “I will shake my fist at heaven to inform God that He is not compassionate nor in control."

Does it work? Grumbling meets with God’s disfavor, and Paul warns us against grumbling when he writes, "...nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:10). Generally, grumbling leads to serious distrust and disobedience. Instead of motivating God, it motivates us to quit on God. We listen to our own bad press about Him.

God also disciplines the grumbler. God cares too much to turn a blind eye to us becoming a grumpy old believer. I do not know what God will do with each grumbler, but Paul warns us that grumbling against God is not a good thing. The result of our grumbling is not that God is motivated to repent, but that He brings new motivations to us to repent.

In part 3, we will discuss the results that grumbling brings about. Until then, consider the questions below.

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. Is it condescending toward a man for a sign to hang in the home that says, “A Lovely Lady and a Grumpy Old Man Live Here?” Could this be a sign that there is humor and mutual understanding? Could it be that she has made an adjustment to some of his grumpiness and he has lessened some of his grumpiness?  
  2. In your opinion, where does a scowling spirit come from? To what extent can a person’s negativity be explained by their experience of being deeply hurt in the past? How can a hurt person learn to grumble less?
  3. Husbands, when you feel others are at fault for your grumpy attitude, how are you learning to lighten up rather than let others control you emotionally?
  4. Husbands, when unfairly treated by unfriendly people, how can you avoid turning into an unfriendly person at home or at work?
  5. Wives, how can you respectfully reassure your husband that, when he feels mistreated by family members, it is unlikely that they are out to get him?
  6. What other questions arise in your mind? Why is this a question for you?