What I Learned When I Stopped Complaining

Exploring the things I learned about my attitude and spirit when I changed my words.
(Last Updated On: November 1, 2016)

For the 2014 Thanksgiving season, I began a challenge of 30 Days Without Complaint. And it was hard. Honestly, it was pretty much impossible to keep 100%. I wanted to revisit what I learned when I stopped complaining.

1. I learned that being negative has been my default setting for most of my life.

I tend to see the one wrong thing like a flashing beacon begging me to fix it, which makes me a fantastic essay grader as a teacher, but also means I have to be purposeful about seeing the positive and intentional about mentioning it!

Trying my best to follow the dictionary definition of ‘complaining’ as expressing any negativity, I had no idea how often I complained. “I’m hungry.” “This coffee is cold.” “I’m tired.” I had this whole under-the-breath monologue of whining that I did almost unconsciously.

Complaining seems like our default setting as humans. Can one month reset our hearts?… Click To Tweet

During this challenge, I had days I considered duct tape might be my only hope.

Heaven Not Harvard - Exploring the things I learned about my attitude and spirit when I changed my words. I got a big dose of conviction one morning when my daughter heard me mumbling my husband’s name while cleaning up after his mess. She shouted aghast, “MOM, he isn’t even here!”

Yes, not only was I adding to the mental list of resentment in my own head, I was coloring her perceptions of her father. I was unintentionally disrespecting him in front of his daughter. LOTS of reasons to halt that behavior immediately.

2. Negativity is a big brush that paints over everything else.

A single complaint can sour an entire experience for everyone. I can be having a perfectly nice time when my husband’s food isn’t right, or he feels the service is slow, and the focus for rest of the night is that ONE aspect of the experience instead of being aware of the myriad of enjoyable moments.

Ever think about all the compliments you’ve ever been paid? What about all the insults? I find that negative feelings and thoughts overshadow all the positives if we give them room in our minds.

3. I had been using complaining as a passive way of asking for things.

“I’m hungry” wasn’t just a declarative statement. I was looking for my husband to offer to cook or get me something. I realized that using complaining to ask for things wasn’t healthy behavior. If I want something, I need to ask for it. And I need to be willing to get it for myself if the answer is no. If I’m not, it wasn’t really that important.

I learned my complaining was sin in so many ways: resentment, manipulation, grumbling. Click To Tweet

By taking more responsibility for what I wanted or needed, I began to take more responsibility for my own feelings as well, which turned out to be very empowering.

After two years being fairly immobile, I got used to not being able to do much. Learning to stop complaining might mean getting up more often, but I am so glad that I finally can!

4. Most importantly, I really learned that words have power.

The way we say things matters. I can complain, “I’m cold” or I can say “I’m going to get my jacket.” One is powerless. The other is pro-active. One is letting my environment dictate my expectations, the other is choosing to create my own reality through my actions or how I choose to perceive it.

The words we use become our focus. I spent this challenge removing as much of the inner complainer as the outer. My internal dialogue was just as much of a problem as my outer one. I still have a long way to go, but see that stopping mid-thought and looking for the blessings can really change my perspective.

For example, my kitchen is messy because my husband works ridiculously hard at insane hours and makes his own breakfast when he is barely awake. I can be upset at the mess or I can choose to see it as wonderful evidence of having a family and a dedicated husband.

Going 30 Days Without Complaint was only a starting point. I have a long way to go before I really conquer this bitter battle with complaining, but I have learned how to be more positive, even with negative emotions.

I’ve seen change starts with my attitude, but ends with being a light and joy to those in my life.

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19 thoughts on “What I Learned When I Stopped Complaining”

  1. I tried this when I saw that you were doing it and it was SO hard. I didn’t realize how difficult it was because I didn’t realize how much complaining actually did. I think I’ll give it another try…maybe try a little harder this time around.

  2. God does HATE complaining! I have heard it takes 30 days to break a habit and it is a very good habit to break. I encourage the women I mentor to try to not argue with their husbands for 30 days and it is a great exercise since God hates strife and anger among the brethren also! Great post!

  3. “I tend to see the one wrong thing in a room like a flashing beacon begging me to fix it.” Gaahhhh, this is so me! Anyways, I enjoyed the post and am thinking I may have to take on this challenge, too. 🙂 Stopping by from the CWB share thread today.
    Jen 🙂

  4. Giving up complaining is something I did years ago and it’s the most critical thing – it TOTALLY changes your perspective. It also opens up your heart to see other’s point of view – a soft of fast track to understanding others. Thanks for sharing this wonderful sacrifice you tried!

  5. I am currently doing a course called Up level You with Christine Kane, she gives us a No Complaining Contract to sign that we promise not to complaint for 21 days and then after 21 days she makes us sign it again. It is a very effective tool because like you say, negativity creeps up in everything that we do, and what better thing to do than eliminate the bad thoughts from our lives and replace them with good thoughts.

  6. Wow! Thank you for this. I have been trying to be more positive lately but you just put it in a whole new perspective with the “I’m cold” example: I still have a long ways to go! Best post I have read in a very long time!

  7. I am so thankful for this post. I often complain, even if its just silently. And #3 struck a chord with me, I do this. I’m going to become more mindful and stop complaining; or at least try!

  8. What a great concept! I think each one of us is guilty of it. Except, I don’t think the statement, I’m hungry, is really a complaint. I know you said that behind it, you were complaining, but I didn’t hear it that way. I’m not complaining about it honest lol. I think I will be more mindful for sure moving foward about complaining so much!

    1. The attitude behind the statement definitely makes a difference. And according to the dictionary, any negative statement is complaining. It was such a broad definition that it really made me think about it differently. I wondered if such a simple statement was complaining or how it would be. That was when the purpose behind making the statement was what made it complaining. I became much more mindful for sure.

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