21 Days Without Complaint, Criticism and Gossip
Point To Ponder: How often do you complain, criticize and gossip?
It was Wednesday, 7:49 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve when I received both a text and phone call from Bixby ISD, the school district our kids attend. It was a message from our superintendent. Without listening and only giving a quick glance at the text, my exact words were, "SH*%! You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re going to tell us this the night before Thanksgiving!” At that moment I felt my body fill with the ever familiar feelings of defeat, frustration, rage and anxiousness—which I’ve experienced more the past few months than I’ve experienced in my lifetime. As you might expect, the message was informing us that for remainder of the semester the kids would be distance learning only.
From that point on I fixated on this question: “How am I going to get anything accomplished throughout the next three weeks with a 9 and 7 year old at home?” This question led to more defeat, anger, rage and anxiousness which caused more complaining and criticism. I hate to admit this, but the message absolutely affected my attitude and gratitude throughout Thanksgiving day. In short, I felt like a ticking time bomb that could explode at any moment—which as of late, is also a familiar feeling.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving night. I had a pile of dirty dishes staring me down so while tackling them I decided to listen to the audio book that friend and iGnite member, Claire Saunders, recommended just 2 days before. She felt the book was “iGnitey” and would be great read and challenge for us to participate in during January. The book is called A Complaint Free World by Pastor Will Bowen. As I listened, it became abundantly clear that I needed to start the challenge, yesterday!
Will Bowen wrote the book in 2006 and to be honest, it’s not rocket science. However, if there was ever a time I needed to be reminded of the toxic nature of both complaining and criticism, it's now. If you are believer in the law of attraction, which is: what you give out you get back (garbage out = garbage in) and what you focus on expands, this concept will make perfect sense. The goal is real simple: to go 21 days straight without complaining, criticizing and gossiping.
As I continued to listen, my question was: “ But what about a good vent? We all need a good vent sometimes and holding everything in and pretending life is perfect isn’t realistic or healthy." Per the book, the answer is: this challenge isn’t about stuffing our emotions or pretending life is perfect and not difficult. Rather, it’s about increasing our awareness around the words we speak and being more mindful and intentional with the things we say (and think). It’s an opportunity to listen better and choose constructive thoughts and words rather than destructive words. Some examples are:
Opportunity vs Problem
Get to vs Have to
Challenge vs Set back
Request vs Complaint
Journey vs Struggle
Signal vs Pain
Since listening to this book and experimenting with not complaining or criticizing, I have become acutely aware of my words, as well as when others complain or criticize too. From my children complaining about having to get ready for bed to the lady at Walmart who tried (with no avail) to get me to join her in the criticism of the store's reorganization, to me complaining about our messy garage. I am realizing that without a raised level of awareness, too much of what comes out of my mouth is a complaint or criticism, even when I’m not intending to complain or criticize. This sickens me, as this isn’t in alignment with the faithful, loving, peaceful and joyful person I am called to be and want to be, and it’s not the example I want to set for my children.
As we enter the final month of 2020...December, the holidays, Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year...I encourage you to read or listen to the book A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen, and join me in this challenge. Given our current set of unique circumstances (how about that for a non-complaint :-), rather than wait for a new year to start something constructive and positive, I feel the challenge is of immense value now. If you choose not to read or listen to the book, no problem! Please plan to participate. Oh, and one last thing: the book recommends wearing a purple bracelet as a reminder not to complain, criticize or gossip, and each time you complain, criticize or gossip, you move the bracelet to the other wrist. This simply helps with the awareness. The goal is to not move your bracelet for 21 days straight. Purple bracelets (the color that represents transformation) have been ordered and will be available for you this week.
Finally, because having complaints, feeling frustrated and even anxious is part of the human experience, I researched what the Bible specifically says about complaining and anxiousness. Ultimately, we have been given plenty of specific instructions, which I haven't been doing lately (clearly). Therefore, if you choose to embark on this challenge, I also encourage you to accompany it with these directions:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6)
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God" (Philippians 2:14-15).
Read or listen to A Complaint-Free World by Will Bowen and participate in the 21 day challenge of living a complaint-free, criticism-free and gossip-free life.
Gracious God, thank you for the abundant blessing of Your love, life, health, family, friends, freedom and prosperity. Help us to discipline our thoughts and words so they are constructive, give and breathe life and build up, and fill us with Your Spirit of peace, love and joy. Amen