Author: David Causey, USA (Ret.)

Huddle Up. Photo by Marines is licensed under CC By 2.0

Bernie Carroll is not someone you’d want as your next door neighbor.  This UK man has been writing sour, complaining letters to his local newspaper, The Liverpool Echo, every day for the last forty-two years (since 1978).  That adds up to more than 15,000 angry letters.

Letters of Fire

And what does he complain about?  Everything.  I guess Bernie Carroll is proof that they’ll always be something to complain about.  Why does he complain so incessantly?  Well, it’s not to make the world a better place. Bernie has no expectation that his complaints will change anything.  But he does say that he finds complaining cathartic and therapeutic.  To him complaining is a coping mechanism.

Bernie describes himself as a very angry man and his letter-writing helps avoid more destructive expressions of his anger.  It’s sustained, he says, him for the last 42 years.  He also attributes the survival of his marriage to this practice of complaining.  However, he and his wife have no children.  Bernie explains that his marriage and his letter-writing is enough of a commitment for him.

Now, we might occasionally agree with some of the things that Bernie Carroll complains about (e.g. competitive eating, cosmetic surgery, pet owners who fail to clean up after their dogs).  Most of us, however, would not want to be like Bernie.  Complaining all the time makes a person miserable.  Maybe it’s a coping mechanism for the short-term.  But it becomes a very bad habit and turns us into a sourpuss.  Bernie himself admits, that while he once complained over issues about which he was more passionate, now it’s more of an addiction.

Yet, it all makes me wonder.  If writing nasty letters is so cathartic and therapeutic, then why – after 42 years is he just as angry as ever.  Yes, it helps him cope – but at everyone else’s expense, especially the poor people whose job it is to read his complaining letters.

Gratitude Gives Life

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Victor Kizer, from Imperial, Mo., assigned to Bravo Company, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, passes out toys to local Iraqi children, during the project assessments of the Basra Talent School, Al Jameat and Al Quibla Markets, to evaluate the measures of performance and effectiveness of the Commander Emergency Response Program projects, in Basra, Iraq, July 29, 2009.

Besides, complaints are something we should give sparingly, reserving them for issues that really need to be addressed.  Mr. Carroll would find that giving thanks to God for his blessings, thanking people for their kindnesses, and praising others for whatever good we see in them is a whole lot more effective.  And he wouldn’t have to wait forty-two years for improvement in his mental health.  Improvement would come almost instantly.  And he’d be a whole lot easier to live with.

Scripture tells us that the joy of the LORD is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).  In contrast, a bitter attitude brings us down (Proverbs 14:30; 15:15; 17:22).  The Bible also says that the path to peace of mind is to rejoice in God, to pray about things that worry us, and to thank God for His blessings (Philippians 4:4-7).  Let’s make giving thanks to God our habit in life.  “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits” (Psalm 103:2).


Dear Father in heaven, I thank You for loving me so much that You sent Your one and only Son to bear my sins and Your wrath upon the cross.  And You did this, Father, so that You might lavish Your love upon me and bring me into an intimate relationship with You.  Oh, Father, please open my eyes to the love You have for me, to Your activity all around me, to the blessings You pour into my life, and to the good in other people.  Help me to practice thanksgiving every day of my life. Amen.


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