Researchers say the average individual complains 15-20 a day. Some researchers and studies show it is even as high as 30 times a day. So, on any given day we may convince ourselves that we are just like everyone else and have a right to complain. However, that is the very opposite of what we are told in Scripture.
“No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:29-31)
“Do not complain, brothers, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.” (James 5:9)
It sometimes seems like a “little easier said than done” type of situation. A wide range of things through our day can cause murmuring and complaining. It can range from children not picking up their clothes, children complaining about having “chicken again” for dinner, employees complaining about decisions made by the boss, and let’s not even talk about complaints coming out of social media regarding everything from the weather to politicians and the Church.
Complaining is toxic and unhealthy. It drains our energy and causes others around us who hear us complain to be impacted (and not in a good way). Do you know that one person who always seems to be complaining about anything and everything? You know who I am talking about. We all know at least one person who complains about everything. The person would complain about not having anything to complain about if they ran out of people or things. We cannot always control what others do, but we can certainly make sure we are not “that person”.
But how exactly do we move from complaining 15 times a day or more to doing what the Holy Spirit tries to guide us in doing and living?
1.) Is it worth it? – When you begin to feel yourself complaining, stop for a moment and take a breath and ask, “is this worth it?” Complaining drains your energy, brings negativity to your attitude and your day, as well as impacts others in a toxic way. You may find yourself realizing it’s really never worth it to complain.
2.) Adoration over agitation – When we make a commitment to spend time in adoration on a regular basis each week (daily if possible) then the time spent in adoration keeps us grounded and centered. We can lay all our complaints, concerns, stresses, and annoyances before the Almighty King of Kings and let Him handle it. We can walk out of that time with adoration with a lighter load. If you are not spending time in adoration at least weekly, you are missing the greatest opportunity to bring more peace and less complaining into your daily life. If you are unable to go to adoration because it’s not available in an area close to you then commit to spending an hour a day in prayer and with God at home or at a park. Find a time and place where you can be with God and then do it. Before you say you are too busy to go to adoration or spend time in prayer, meditate on the quote by St. Francis de Sales. The great saint said that everyone needs to spend 30 minutes a day in prayer unless you’re busy. If you’re busy, you need to spend an hour in prayer.
3.) Change your Focus – When you are complaining then your focus is on the problem. (i.e. I’m tired of picking up after the kids. They should be cleaning up themselves.) By making an intentional effort to change the focus, including the words which come out of your mouth, then your attitude suddenly goes from complaining to gratitude. (i.e. Hey kids, we are so thankful to God that we have the ability to buy such great clothes for you and that you’re such great kids to help take care of what God has given us. Let’s work together to keep our house that God has given us clean as well and then I’ll get to work on dinner right after it’s clean.) Now, depending on the situation, your change of focus will obviously be different. However, by speaking positivity into the lives of others (positive reinforcement rather than complaining to your children OR positive speaking at work to employees rather than complaining about the boss) you begin to be a source of a positive culture rather than a toxic environment.
4.) Find three things that you can be thankful for - Most of us have food on our table and a roof over our head. Even if we are struggling to keep it over our head, living with relatives or friends, or whatever the situation may be, the majority of us can say we are not sleeping under a bridge. There are many things to be thankful for in our life. When you feel yourself getting frustrated and wanting to complain about something that went wrong, think of something that has gone right. When you hear yourself begin complaining to others about something you do not have, thank God for something you do have in your life. When you want to complain about another person, give thanks to God for the people in your life who make it better.
Many of us, if we are honest with ourselves, can find ourselves complaining frequently about something. Slow drivers in front of us, the annoying co-worker who thinks they know everything, the project that did not turn out well, the business deal that did not close, or the lack of rain for the week. There are many things we can complain about, but God has gifted us with even more things that can cause us to be thankful and realign our focus. Additionally, he has given us Jesus Christ and the sacrifice on Calvary for us. That alone is worth giving thanks for rather than on the things of this earth that cause us to complain.