This past Sunday in my sermon I shared a challenge: what if we tried to go 21 days straight with no complaints? It would be a spiritual practice designed to transform how we speak and think.
On Monday night, a member of the church emailed me to say that the “complaint-free world” challenge was too much given that the Eagles new offense was a running and passing nightmare for the Redskins. The fourth touchdown broke him. All you could hear was the snapping sound of his purple bracelet. Earlier that day another guy told me that it simply could not be done during the golf tournament we were playing in to benefit the Child Rescue Centre and Mercy Hospital. Given my limited skills in golf, let’s just say that I could feel his pain. On Sunday another person told me that it would need to wait until after an important meeting on Tuesday. One woman told me her family wasn’t even going to try to go complaint free for 21 days.
There is never a good time to give up complaining. Which says a lot about how dependent we are on the habit.
I am now on day six of wearing my bracelet. I switch it every time I vocalize a complaint. I have now strung together four complaint-free days. I switched the bracelet many times prior.
Here is what I have learned so far:
- I am a contributor to the surplus of complaint in the world. I am not proud of it, but it’s true. I was really surprised the first 24 hours how many times that bracelet was moving from wrist to wrist to register. The surviving hairs on my arm are begging me to stop complaining. They have protest signs that read, “be fair to the follicles!”
- I am certain that this is a valid spiritual exercise. My complaints arise out of unfiltered speech. They often show contempt for people, something Jesus is against. And they hinder my thanksgiving for the good things of life, which Jesus is for.
- When I am slow to speak I am less likely to complain. When I am silent, I don’t complain at all. When I don’t complain, I don’t kick off resentment in others around me. Silence really is sometimes golden.
- You are complaint-free when you don’t verbalize complaint. You may still think the complaint, but you get credit for keeping it to yourself and not getting it all over the people around you. Feel good about yourself.
- It is possible to share a concern with someone without turning it into complaint. For me the keys are tone and brevity. Say it politely. Keep it short.
- I like myself better when I don’t complain. I’m just more enjoyable to be with without outright complaints or the ones I embed in my clever sarcasm. When I don’t complain, it sometimes leads me to notice good things going on around me and say those things out loud to the people responsible. Which is nice. And nice is highly underrated in the world. Nice people are fantastic. The nicer they are, the more I like them. If this keeps up I am going to take myself out to lunch. Just for the company. And I’m paying.
So thanks to all those purple armband people from the complaint-free Floris UMC. I am rooting for you. You can do it. And the Redskins almost came back and won that game, so there is hope for the weeks ahead, which is great.