Ever have this? You’re hardly out of bed in the morning, and you find yourself complaining about something.
I’ve done this.
Once it starts, out comes more…and next thing you know…it’s dominated my morning. Then I catch myself and think, ‘I gotta quit this.’
One of the easiest joy-zapping things to do in life is to complain.
Complaining abounds. We complain about the weather, our work, our home, our health, our spouse, our family, our friends, the government, other drivers, our situation, money, our life in general. And the list goes on.
If something doesn’t suit us, or our schedule, or our way…we easily complain.
Complaining indicates discontentment. Not being happy with something… and we’re going to let someone else know about it! Anyone. Sometimes everyone! Just look at the news, news feeds, reactions, social media…complaining abounds. And everyone hears about it.
Stop… and Start with 24 Hours
A few weeks back I was driving with one of my boys listening to Joyce Meyer on the radio talking about complaining. She gave a challenge to the audience to have a 24-hr complaining ‘fast’ (stop it for 24 hrs). My son started smirking at me (mostly because I don’t think he thought I could do this) and me at him. We decided to do it.
It went ok. I made it through one day. But I had to keep it on the forefront of my mind and be intentional about it. I shared it with my wife to help keep me focused and accountable. She too smirked thinking it’d be a stretch. But I made it through a full day. And I’ve had more days since.
And I noticed when complaining stops, positivity rises as does the capacity for positive contribution to many situations. Others noticed too.
Changing this one thing changes everything. Intentionally removing complaining, or we could say, discontentment from our life, means making a conscious shift to non-complaining and contentment. Contentment evokes gratitude and gratitude appreciation, and these combined are not only attractive but effective in increasing joy in life and add value to others.
It’s good for us and the people around us. An Apostle from the early church informs us, “Do everything without complaining and arguing…” (I’ll come back to that.)
Here are 3 things that have helped me make a shift towards less complaining.
1. Be Content…and Grateful
Complaining represents dissatisfaction and discontentment. Be content and allow for giving thanks…in all circumstances. Everything we complain about could be transferred to a mindset of contentment leading to gratitude. But that’s not easy. Because that means we have to take the focus off ourselves and what we’re not happy with and ask instead, ‘What do I have right here, right now, that I can be thankful for?’ or, ‘Who am I thankful for?’ or, ‘How can I add value to this situation?’
What if, instead, we were content with the weather, our work, our home, our health, our spouse, our family, our friends, the government we do have, others around us, our situation, our money, our life in general?
Rarely does complaining improve anything.
What if we considered all that we have been given and were content with that, instead of caving in to the prevailing ‘consumeristic approach’ to life… a chasing after an induced void of dissatisfaction with current affairs…and the hammering out that we need more?
A good place to start is to find someone in your life right now that you are grateful for and thank them for being part of your life – and for putting up with you (and your complaining). Then remember to thank God… who made us and gave us everything we do have.
When we live in contentment and gratitude our perspective shifts. People take notice and are blessed by your presence.
2. Filter your Input
Our consumeristic culture beckons us that we need more. We tend to compare ourselves with others and want what they have. It’s like fuel added to fiery furnace of discontentment, shaping us to complain that we don’t have what someone else has, or we aren’t treated as they are, or our situation isn’t how we want, or we’re just not getting what we want.
Filter your input. Filter everything that comes at you and discard that which fosters discontentment. Disconnect from negativity, greed, discontentedness, and complaining. And when negativity does come through or pop up inside, filter it through your growing sense of contentment and gratitude, so your perspective in life continues in the direction of the awareness of a developing beauty around you.
Everything around us changes for the better.
3. Be Generous on Output
Find someone, perhaps worse off than yourself, and go and serve them. Give of your time and resources to others around you. Giving always stirs in us a sense of adding value to others. Observe a change in perspective awakening in you a thankfulness for what you do have and that you can contribute. As you serve, contentment builds and gratitude increases.
Often in life we complain because our world revolves around one entity… ‘the self’. But if we serve others and take the focus off the ‘me’, we change. Not “thinking less of our self, but simply thinking of our self less” (C.S Lewis). Those around us benefit as we take time to care for them; everything continues to change for the better. Complaining lessens as we focus on the needs of others. We can give and serve anywhere – in our homes, our workplaces, and our communities. We don’t have to look far to find someone in need.
From Self to Serving… Despite Circumstances
Our entire life will be a struggle to shift from a focus on self and my desires (and the complaining if I don’t get what I want), to being content and others-focused in gratitude and serving.
Contentment, gratitude and serving have deeper roots.
The greatest man that ever walked the earth, Jesus, said, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.”
Wow. And this rightful king, Jesus, yet humble servant, never complained. He came to save those lost in a world full of discontentment and complaining and bring us to a deeper realization for gratitude and serving – gratitude for forgiveness and new life in Him, and a serving others as we follow His example. As He lived and served and gave His life for us, so He calls us to do likewise. Content all the while.
Through Him we have the capacity to live lives of joy and serving, knowing that in all circumstances – good or bad – He carries us purposely forward on a journey through this life to not complain, but to endure in His power, despite what comes our way.
“Do everything without complaining and arguing….so that you may be without fault and shine like stars in a crooked and depraved generation as you hold out the word of life.” Phil. 2: 15, 16
Following this command of the Apostle Paul, we stand out, faultless, and shine like stars in the universe when complaining ceases. Shining Jesus-in-us as we hold out His Word of Life which is the entrance to eternal life for any who believe in Him… He who came to ransom many with His own life of serving to the death – even death on a cross!
Think about it… our complaining impedes our shining like stars! Our complaining obstructs others to have a clear view of Jesus and distorts the good news message of a relationship restored with the God who made us.
We must stop! We have no reason to complain!
As ransomed representatives of Jesus, we have a place in this world to stand out… to shine. That doesn’t work while complaining and griping about everything that’s wrong. Rather, let’s rejoice in everything that Jesus has made and is making right and new again.
Begin today. For 24 hours, don’t complain. Changing this one thing changes everything.
Maybe it’s harder than it sounds but it is achievable. Setting this time frame gives you a goal. Share your initiative with someone; maybe they can join you, or at least hold you accountable. When you make it through the day, celebrate, and then do it again.
Make 2020 a year that you shift away from complaining, regardless of culture around us, and watch everything change for the better around you, most noticeably shining like stars as you hold out the Word of Life which really does change everything… eternally.