On Complaining and Criticizing, Part 2

[This is a follow-up to On Complaining and Criticizing, part 1.]

On Feb 17th, 2011 I decided I was going to stop.  Stop contributing to the negativity in our culture.  Stop verbalizing my negative thoughts about people. And criticising and not affirming or building up others.  And perhaps become a more positive person.

So far, I haven’t made it more than a few days.

To be honest I haven’t kept track of how long I have gone but I know I have certainly not gone 21 consecutive days.  But, the rubber band is still on my wrist. Remember the rubber band was the reminder.  Move it to the other wrist when you fail.  I said:

“I’m trying to lead by example and not complain about anything or criticize anyone, or gossip, for 21 days, which is how long it takes to form a habit apparently.”

And though I haven’t made it, I can say this.

I am fantastically aware of my mouth.

It’s not that I am an excessively negative person.  But I am verbal.  And I have been known to intimidate others — insert sinister laughter — and I am well aware of the “power” my words have.  I am not consciously (I hope) hurting others at this point in my life.  (I started working on giving up sarcasm approx. ten years ago and for the most part I’m doing well on that.  But it’s tough.)

But I know how easy, almost habitual, it is to say something critical about another person.  I include jibes or sarcasm here because, though (sometimes) funny, they are totally unnecessary and without a doubt do not build others up.

So, no more complaining, criticising and gossiping.  I want to try.  It’s not the number of days that matters.  It’s the effort.

Another thing I’ve learned from this effort is that I DO use “complaining, subtle criticism and jibes” in a passive aggressive way.

When I am annoyed or upset about one thing, I jab at the person about something else.  With the adult child or the tweens in my house I see directly how this simply wears down their self-esteem and it reinforces negative when it could be a learning opportunity.  So, I am trying to be up front about behaviors that annoy me and let the cracks go.  No matter how funny they may be I will bite my tongue!

And as this is the first day of LENT you might consider giving up being a “critical, complaining, or gossiping” person.

I have lofty goals for myself.

(Yes, that was sarcasm. But at my own expense!)

I am going to see if I can go three days without moving the wristband.  Three days without saying something unnecessarily critical.  Three days without talking about another person when they aren’t there.  Three days without cracking a joke at someone’s expense.  Some call it being snarky. Or kvetching.  And three days feels long. It’s especially hard if  you get a lot of your identity from being funny.

But it’s something to think about.  It comes down to this:  Do you build others up or tear them down?

I don’t want to be known to be a complainer.  Or have a reputation for mean sarcasm.  Or be remembered for being negative.  And this is more than about giving something up.  In that way it’s just a discipline.  But if our heart is to be changed then we have to truely set that weakness or propensity or sin at the foot of the Cross.  Let it go because if you’re totally honest with yourself, like me you want to build others up.

Three days.  I know that’s about all I can do — in — a — row. If that!?!  And then perhaps another three.  Some day 21.  Or the lenton 40.  Or, forever.

What about you?


Some verses, if you read the Bible

  • Ephesians 4.29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them
  • Ecclesiastes 10:12 Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips.
  • Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
  • Romans 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
  • Romans 15:2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
  • Ephesians 5:4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
  • Colossians 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
  • Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

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On Complaining & Criticizing


“Complaining is epidemic in our world”

Yep, that is pretty much the way to communicate these days. Some call it critique (I have) but it is pretty much bad news.  And a bad example.   And it’s gotten so out of hand with one of my kids that I just snapped recently.  “Not another word!” I found myself screaming.  I totally understand the old adage which I heard from my father “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”  And when he was mad, just “Shut up” in Tibetan so no one else would know what he was saying.

So I’m trying to lead by example and not complain about anything or criticize anyone, or gossip, for 21 days, which is how long it takes to form a habit apparently.

They offer purple bracelets (you can get free on their website) but I have stuck with a rubber band.  Wear it on a wrist and switch it to the other wrist when you catch yourself expressing a complaint, gossiping or criticizing.  And begin again.  I started on Sunday and I haven’t made it through a day, yet.  But I am über conscious of my thoughts and have struggled to not express a lot of complaints, criticism or gossip.  The idea is by changing your words you change your thoughts — a constant striving to reformat your mental hard drive.  By doing that you change your heart and your life.

And I think Jesus would agree.  He talks a lot about kindness, speaking kindly to one another, not slandering one another, not calling names.  In Matt 5.22:

Whoever says to his brother raca will be answerable to the Sanhedrin; and whoever says “you fool” will be liable to fiery Gehenna. NIV

But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister,* you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult*[Greek say Raca to an obscure term of abuse] a brother or sister,* you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell* of fire. NRSV

Whoah!  Bottom line beyond our words:  “Be kind.”  Watch our tongues, stop putting others down, or gossiping.  Perhaps I’m just on about this because I have two middle-schoolers and they are often catty and snarky and I find myself also guilty.  It’s such a common part of our culture that we don’t even realize it, often.

So, build into your life a practice of treating others with respect, giving people the benefit of the doubt, stopping your tongue, and be kind!

This could easily become a fix-it gimmick, but if you look at this in spiritual terms I believe it could change you forever.  Irrevocably.

Speaking positively about others is a simple thing, but it is so hard to do.  Trust me, I shout out loud at the “idiots” on the road. I talk about people who I don’t understand (e.g. gossip).  I called the Governor of Wisconsin a bad name yesterday.  When you have kids all of a sudden you have a mirror in front of you or in the case of yelling obscenities at the dog-sh*t on the floor, you have a tape recorder in the memory of your children.  Yikes!

Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms:   Shut Your Mouth!   Don’t be a fool.   Be kind.

Listen to him and I believe it will change you.


[“Ephphatha” Be opened] First in a series on responding to Jesus’ words

A Complaint Free World: How to Stop complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted by Will Bowen.

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