A Complaint Free World

For Lent this year I had a difficult time deciding what sacrifice I was going to make for God. My New Year's Resolution of eating a healthier diet was still going strong, couldn't pick that... I already exercise regularly... that won't work... Hmmm.... Caffeine? No I do that nearly every year and it never sticks. Eliminating caffeine always seems like it's more for me and less for God anyway.

I was stumped. 

Then I started thinking about something. Something terrible that I do all the time. Something that I hear others doing all the time too. Something that I feel guilty about every time it happens, and yet, I still do it constantly. 

I complain. 

At the beginning of every semester I joke around in class about how I complain about my life constantly and that my students are going to be sick of me by the end of it. Complaining is a fault that I am aware of, yet I never really try not to do it.

I decided that for Lent this year I was going to stop complaining, hoping to be a better wife, friend and mom. 

Last week, after about two weeks of trying, I noticed that although I was now more aware of when I complained, I wasn't really doing it less. I was starting to feel pretty awful that my Lenten sacrifice wasn't going very well.

Then I thought about a book sitting on a shelf in my office. 

About five years ago, I remember one specific student that I had. He was a man in his 40's that always payed attention during my lectures and was constantly smiling. One day after class we got to talking. Somehow we got on the subject of his past experiences. I remember that he disclosed that he was a recovering addict, which had impacted his career and his family drastically. He had lost his job, his home, his financial stability, and in doing so had lost his wife to divorce and his children were no longer part of his life.

I was shocked. 

This couldn't be the man before me? This man was put together; he was an excellent student and seemed like someone that everyone would love to be around.

Trying to hide my surprise, I asked him, "How do you stay so positive? You have experienced so much pain and loss?"

He said to me, "I try not to complain." 

His answer really struck a chord with me. A few class meetings went by, and whenever I saw this student I was reminded of just how his positivism had changed his life. He was truly an inspiration.

One day toward the end of the semester he walked up to me and handed me a small book, along with a purple rubber bracelet. I noticed that when he handed this gift to me he was also wearing the same purple band on his wrist. He told me that he wanted me to have the book, and I could read if if I wanted. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, I graciously accepted it, thanked him and gave him a hug. The semester eventually ended and I have never seen this student again since. I cannot even remember his name. Sadly, I also never cracked open the book.

The book and bracelet have sat on various shelves for 5 years. They sat on my shelf at home for awhile, and for the last three years they have sat on my computer desk at work. 

Last week I glanced up at the book and noticed the title, A Complaint Free World. I remembered what my student had said to me: I try not to complain. Maybe this was a sign. Could this help me fulfill my Lenten promise? 

I decided to read the book.

Turns out that the book outlines a 21 day challenge of no complaints. Basically a person taking the challenge wears a purple rubber bracelet on his or her wrist and tries not to complain for 21 consecutive days. The problem is, we all complain all the time, and every time we do, we must switch the bracelet to the other wrist, repeating this throughout the day whenever we catch ourselves complaining or gossiping.

The author says it can take months to be able to get through 21 days without a complaint, but it can be done. Every time you complain, you switch the band to the other wrist and you start over. Eventually you begin to train you mind not to let the complaint come out. Your goal is to be able to wear the bracelet on the same wrist for 21 days, signifying tangible evidence of your success and as a reminder to keep living your life complaint free.

When I started reading the book I set the bracelet on the table in front of me. After a few inspiring pages I put the bracelet on. Then I took it off. Then I put it back on. And I took it off again. I kept wondering if this was something I could do. Then I got to a line in the book:

"Change your thoughts and you change your world." 

I stared at that phrase. This phrase was familiar to me because it is embossed in my bathroom. When I moved into the house where I currently live, the previous owner had etched this phrase on the master bathroom mirror. I remember that I really liked it so I decided to keep it up. What a great quote to read every morning when you wake up, I thought.

When I saw that quote in A Complaint Free World I immediately placed the purple band on my wrist. 

I am just about a week into the challenge and I have yet to go more than a day with my purple bracelet staying on the same wrist. I am excited for and committed to this challenge though. I will make my world A Complaint Free World, even if only for 21 days.

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