This year for Lent I gave up complaining. I don’t usually give up something for Lent – I usually try to add some spiritual discipline. But as I read the “fruit of the spirit” list and prayed about what to add, I was convicted. Although I usually consider myself to be a “glass plenty full” person I had fallen into a spirit of criticizing and nitpicking. And when I do there are three people who suffer for it: Tom, me, and my relationship with God.
So I decided to give up complaining for Lent. The first thing I needed to do was define complaining so I could recognize it when I did it. According to Merriam-Webster, complaining is “expressing grief, pain, or discontent.” I usually focus on the discontent one when I start bellyaching. But – is noticing something wrong the same as complaining? I decided, for my Lenten discipline, I would define complaining as expressing discontent with something I can’t or won’t do anything about. So I can mention that the living history library is a mess if I am going to work on cleaning it up. But I can’t express discontent with the personality of a coworker or husband because I can’t do anything about that.
At first it was hard to give up grumbling for Lent. I had fallen into some bad habits that needed to be broken. I learned that I especially needed to avoid standing around talking with coworkers about what was wrong with somebody. Instead, when I found myself with others who were complaining, I tried to think of something positive to say or come up with a suggestion on how to change the situation. I also had to work to drive the complaining thoughts from my head.
Over the course of the six weeks of Lent, however, I got better at not complaining. Thinking positive thoughts about others replaced the negative thoughts that previously occupied me. I also found it easier to recognize when I started complaining and stop myself.
I expect the benefits of complaining less to last beyond Lent as I try to continue this discipline. Tom is happier because I am not picking on him. I am happier because I am not stuck in my negative thought loops. And I’m sure God is happier with me because I am focused more on love, patience, joy, and kindness. Not criticizing is a good discipline for any of us and one I plan to continue.
Of course I am not the first person to try this. Will Bowen recently authored “A Complaint Free World.” This book challenges people to stop griping and start speaking and acting positively. If you are interested in giving up complaining, you might want to read this book.
How about you? Did you give anything up for Lent? How did you do?