If you were to ask anyone if they believed complaining could fix things, they’d probably tell you yes. After all, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil, right?
And I used to believe this too, until Joan Bacon (Unity Minister 1987-2006), brought up the idea of giving thanks in everything.
When Paul said in his letters to the Thessalonians, “be joyful always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God,” he wasn’t just spewing positive thinking rhetoric. He was giving instructions to experience greater faith and find the peace of God within us.
So where exactly does complaining fit in?
In 2007 I decided to participate in my first complaint free living challenge. I thought it would be easy! But it turns out that complaining is sort of like having bad breath; you only ever notice it when someone else has it.
I discovered through this challenge that complaining, in general, doesn’t fix things. It doesn’t deepen our relationships, or help others see our point of view. It doesn’t improve our health or wellbeing. It does not increase our faith or our experience of the peace of God within us.
The reason that complaining doesn’t make our lives better is that complaining puts all our focus on problems, so we’ll walk by sight instead of faith. Like Job, when we take our eyes off God, we suffer because we lose sight of the wonder that is God.
My own complaint-free journey had a profound effect on my spiritual life. Now I notice right away if I am going into “complaint mode,” so I can shift my thinking to praise and appreciation. And I’ve learned that all it takes to fix problems is to simply be clear on the facts.
If I’m at a restaurant, and my coffee is cold, I don’t have to complain to my friends or family about how cold my coffee is. I don’t have to tweet about how my server must be trying to ruin my day with that cold coffee. I just tell my server, “my coffee is cold, could I have a warm-up?” My problem is solved. And I didn’t have to make anyone feel bad in order to fix my problem.
Giving up complaining can be difficult, because through complaining we often gain sympathy and attention. But complaining is just a habit, and as Job once demonstrated, habits can be changed.
If you are ready to shift your thinking from complaining to radical appreciation, I hope you’ll join us at Unity of Yucaipa for our first ever Complaint Free Bootcamp. Click here for more information.