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The Hidden Treasure of Complaints

Your treasure awaits…

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of Isaac Watts. No? Me neither, at least not until I’d started writing this post.

If you don’t know his story, it starts about 300 years ago when he became famous for complaining—and a few other things.

See, Isaac was a churchgoer and after attending as a teenager and into young adulthood, he just couldn’t make peace with the music. But it wasn’t only the songs he felt so disgusted with; it was also the dull energy his fellow churchgoers brought to their singing.

So he let his dad know about it with the favorite of all adolescents:

The Complaint.

His father eventually encouraged him to do something about it. So Isaac wrote his own hymn. And kept on writing, crafting poems and many more song lyrics still used today.

Ever heard of that little tune “Joy to the World?” Those are his words.

But here’s the thing—what if instead of challenging him, Isaac’s dad had ignored his complaints or had told him to zip it or had forced him to write “I will not complain about church” 100 times?

Complaints are a complex breed. Yes, they’re annoying when you’re on the receiving end, but sometimes when you crack them open, they’re holding something beautiful. Sometimes they’re guarding the treasure of an idea or a solution.

And other times, like it was for Isaac, what’s inside is something even bigger—a path to purpose.

So just like Isaac’s father challenged him, I’m doing the same for you. I’m daring you to do the following:



Pay attention to your own and others’ complaints. And instead of tuning out or getting angry, challenge the complainer—whether yourself or another—to action.

When you do this, you’re prying open that complaint to give its owner the first glimpse of hidden treasure.

And in this season of giving, what an unforgettable present that would be.

I plan to accept my own dare in two ways:

  1. Challenge my kids.

Mealtime griping has gotten so bad that I recently made a rule: anyone who complains about the food will be asked to leave the table, with no coming back.

But I’m ready to shift my approach because I’m curious if there may be a treasure hiding in those complaints. Will my little ones discover an idea for a kid-created, healthy meal plan? Or maybe a career as a future chef who caters to picky eaters? We’ll see…

  1. Challenge myself.

In writing this article, I’ve recognized a recurring complaint of mine. And just like with Isaac Watts, it’s connected to church.

I’m not sure yet what treasure it may be hiding, but thinking about it with inquisitiveness instead of anger is encouraging. Like maybe I’m on to something. I’ve got some more cracking open to do but having taken even this small action feels good.

Now it’s your turn—are you ready to take on my dare? If so, also check out the tips in this previous post, Sorry, I’m No Longer Accepting Complaints—Four Tips to Make the Shift. (Tip #2 will get you in the right frame of mind to accept this challenge.)

Happy treasure hunting and may we all find the joy we’re meant to bring to the world!

Have you ever discovered a hidden treasure in a complaint? Share your story below!


“Watts, Isaac.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved December 11, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/music-history-composers-and-performers-biographies/isaac-watts

(2008, Aug.) Isaac Watts—Father of English Hymnody. Retrieved December 11, 2018 from Christianitytoday.com https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/poets/isaac-watts.html

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