I am about 25 days into the “Complaint Free World Challenge,” and I am celebrating, yes, day 3 of a complaint-free sequence. That sounds pitiful, but I had a four day and six day run in there. I plan to continue this as a personal challenge after the sermon series is concluded until I get to the 21-day mark. I’m told that the average person takes about six months to successfully go the distance. If you are working with me, let me share a couple of practices that are helping me become more consistent.
- Focus on gratitude. The birthday cards that arrived from members of the congregation are still on my desk. I started to move them a couple of times but realized that whenever I notice them, I think about what a great group of people call Floris UMC their church home. The cards make me think about how thoughtful people are, and that leads me to remember so many other acts of kindness members of the church have shown to each other and the community over the years. The net effect is that I become lighter, more joyful and more grateful. Complaint and its attendant emotions wither in the bright light of gratitude. I encourage you to put something in front of you that makes you glad. Rearrange your family photos so that you see them again. Reread an old thank-you note someone sent. Find a way to remind yourself of the ways God has blessed you.
- Serve somebody. I was recently having a morning that was making the expression of complaint a high likelihood. I was getting grumbly. Then I returned a call to someone who needed to talk. The person suffered a tremendous loss recently. It was good to spend time with them. The more I focused on their concerns, the more my perspective changed. By the end of that call, my problems were right-sized. They were much, much smaller. Grousing about them would have felt ridiculous.
- Take a break. Most of us work hard. We have lots of responsibilities with family, work, friends, volunteer work and countless projects at work and home. And we have stress that comes from living with a little time margin. I have found that when I am ramping up to a rant or leaning toward a lament, if I give myself a break to get something to drink or stand in the sun for even a few minutes, it just gets better. If I attend to a full day off that lacks a hectic schedule or time in traffic, it gets better still. Often my complaints have more to do with a disordered inner state than outer circumstances. Taking a quick break during a busy day or spending a day doing whatever seems right and good can be a powerful reset.
This post dedicated to any who are impacted by the recent government shutdown. Brothers and sisters, if you are trying to live a complaint-free life, then to quote Thomas Paine, “these are the times that try men’s (and women’s) souls…”