Last year I presented this challenge to you. It’s a new year, a new November, and I wanted to challenge you again with this. Original post published 11/3/22.
It’s November. Every November, as I scroll through social media or blogs, I see people posting about what they’re grateful for. Thankful for. People taking the whole month to appreciate all they’ve been given from the Lord. Beautiful, obviously!
But you know…sometimes I see or hear those same people doing something we all fall into so easily, even during a month of gratitude: COMPLAINING.
I very nearly titled this post “Hey, you–yeah, YOU–stop complaining!” … but I wasn’t sure it would come through that I was talking to myself as much as you, LOL. But I totally am. Because here’s the thing, friends: complaining is addictive.
Seriously. It releases one of those chemicals into your brain, and it also elicits responses from people–either they jump on board with the complaining (bonding!) or they argue, but either way, it feeds our need to be seen and heard and to engage with others.
Complaining can sometimes help us articulate a problem and, hence, find a solution to it. Sometimes stating, “Man, I’m tired,” can mean, “I should probably stop working now and rest before I make a mistake,” or “Wow, I’ve put in a hard day’s work today!” Sometimes, when I say I’m sore, what I’m really saying is that I need to take a few minutes to stretch. There is simple observation…
But how often do we instead use our complaints as a constant lens through which we view the world? How often do we go looking for what we disapprove of in a situation, instead of focusing on the good?
Just think over your latest conversations. Food, politics, religion, your car, your work, your clothes, your family…how much of your focus on these topics was on the negative? Sure, we can be grateful we have all those things, but if we then turn around and pick it apart, are we really exhibiting the gratitude and thanksgiving that God calls us to offer up to Him?
In a book of efficiency called Effortless, the author had caught himself in a pattern of complaining so issued himself a simple challenge: every time he complained out loud, he had to put a dollar in a jar. Well, he soon curbed the spoken words, so then it was every time he thought about complaining, he put the money in. Pretty soon, he’d stopped even thinking complaints. Every time something came up that would usually have made him grumble, he consciously reframed it. Maybe into a mere observation: So maybe, “She is late AGAIN” turned into “Huh, that’s the third time this week she’s been late” and then–here’s the real trick–into a compassionate response like “I wonder why she’s late again? Are her days stressful? Is there anything I can do to help her with that?”
This month, I’m going to be issuing myself a challenge, and I’d love it if some of you would join me. Let’s turn our complaining into compassion and our grumbling into gratitude! Every time we think or speak a complaint, let’s pause and reframe it into something positive–something to be grateful for. Let’s stop being put out by people and start trying to help them.
My example: when walking along the beach with my best friend in September, I observed, “Man, it’s crowded out here! I hate crowded beaches.” We’d just been talking about complaining, so we laughed and immediately reframed it to: “Isn’t it great that so many people are out with their families enjoying God’s creation? It’s pretty awesome that I get to be here sharing that with them too.”
To help us all out with that, I’ve even created a little printable mini-journal. To help us develop the habit, let’s keep this with us and jot down our complaints–and more importantly, our reframing of them into a praise–throughout the month. I bet as the weeks wears on, we’ll find fewer and fewer occasions to use it…because we’ll stop complaining in general!
What things or topics tend to evoke the most complaints in your conversation? How can you check that impulse?