Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Complaint Free world

My friend Jean is wearing a purple complaint-free world bracelet. "Complaint free world" ( you can google it and find their web site) is a movement to curtail complaining. The idea as I understand it, is to become conscious of how often you complain by moving your purple bracelet from one wrist to the other every time you complain (Any bracelet or wrist twine will do. You don't need the official purple bracelet). The goal is to be complaint-free for 21 days. This includes not gossiping.

A complaint has to be verbal to "count." Your thoughts don't count.

Statements of facts are not complaints if stated neutrally. According to the Web site, saying to a waiter, "my soup is cold," is a fact; however, saying, "How dare you serve me cold soup" is a complaint. Saying we are in a recession is a fact (it doesn't make us a nation of whiners) but saying, "I can't believe we keep having these awful recessions" does. By stating facts, we are free to speak truth to power.

The value of not complaining, according to the Web site, comes from the reduction of "negative energy" generated by complaints and the increase in positive energy. The concept was started by a Christian pastor, so this is not supposed to be New Age mumbo jumbo. It's more, from what I can gather, a variant of Norman Vincent Peale's power of positive thinking. Another idea behind the movement is to realize that much of what we complain about is completely trivial and that we have more to be grateful for than we often acknowledge.

I'm intrigued with the challenge, seemingly almost impossible, of not complaining for 21 days. I know I complain too much. I also know that people who are always negative or always complaining can drag others down.

On the other hand, complaining is often a form of social exchange, an icebreaker that says, "I'm like you; I'm not above it all." Complaining about the weather, the President, the woes of the world, can a be a way for people to draw together and feel safe with one another. The freedom to complain implies a certain degree of intimacy (you wouldn't, for example, complain on a job interview).

Jean commented that people at her workplace have noticed her almost Pollyanna-ish cheeriness and have not necessarily liked it. Being consistently positive carries the risk of being irritating. It's a tricky business, this no complaining.

Finally, not complaining is not going to solve the world's problems all by itself. But it might make problems seem more solvable.

What do you think? Is "complaint free world" something you would be willing to embrace?


AbiSomeone said...

Interesting post, Diane....

Your wee purple abbess perked up at the thought of a purple wristband ;^) !

I struggle with this -- and you've read enough of my stuff to know where I'm coming from (I hope)....

There is a fine line between stating things as they are and always being cheery. I try to state things as they are with a good sense of humor ... which often helps.

But even just last night our small group was talking about the fact that western culture absolutely rejects the embracing of suffering. And I wonder whether this is another sign of that?

I am all for not whining and complaining, but I think it comes from the pressure that is all around that calls for everything to be ordered and orderly -- and with it, cheeriness.

Perhaps if we were more free to embrace the chaos around us as the location of God's work in and for and through us, we would be less inclined to whine about it and other challenges (relational or situational).

I think that as long as the "complaint" is not projecting blame onto someone else for your situation -- including your response to your situation -- it serves as a leveling ground of sorts. It makes us "real."

...You know, Job is one of my very favorites (and the Patron Saint of the Purple Martyrdom), and I am willing to give him (and other purple martyrs) a good deal of space to process the reality of their situation! ;^)


AbiSomeone said...

"To express grief, pain or discontent." This is the dictionary definition from the website. (I went over to have a look after my first comment.)

This leads me to want to complain (are you smiling? :^) ) about this definition!

I believe it is important to be able to express grief and pain -- and this is what the western world does not do well. The church, especially, doesn't embrace this well at all, IMO.

It is the discontent piece that I think should be addressed. This is why I am more attracted to a "Whine Free World" -- because whining is the point where we confuse want with need.

This is a big issue the abbess has with the West -- and the church in the West, particularly.

If you need something -- a true need, now -- then to express the grief or pain resulting from that need being unmet is something that takes humility. I call this more along the lines of "confession" ... and we know that this is good for the soul!

If you WANT something, on the other hand, and you can't have it (or it has been taken away) -- then to whine about being denied ... and how unfair it is ... and how mean someone is to deny it ... then this is the complaining that is not good for the soul....

Okay, I confess: I've complained enough for today ;^)

AbiSomeone said...

Okay, really ... this is my last comment!

What just struck me is that the issue of chronic complaining -- as well as chronic suffering in silence -- is that too many people are not willing to listen to another long enough to "listen one another into free speech" (as my Allelon friends are so fond of saying).

Let's go back to my friend, Job. When his friends were really his friends, they sat with him for seven days in silence as he poured out his woes.

That was exactly the right thing to do, and it is not done enough these days!

Things went south, as it were, when they began to whine about Job's complaining. And you'll recall that God was cool with listening to Job -- and Job was cool with God's response to his complaining.

But God was not at all cool with Job's friends whining -- because it was full of misrepresentations of both Job and God.

Okay ... gotta run, sister!

Bill Samuel said...

Oh, gee! If I did the purple bracelet thing, I would probably suffer some kind of injury from repetitive moving of the bracelet from one arm to another!

But I know Jean will be much better at it than I could hope to be.

Diane said...

Hi Bill.


Great comments! I struggle with not wanting to whine--and I agree with you that "whine-free world" is a better way to put it than "complaint free"--but I also wonder about a complaint-free existence not being the way the world really is. I am with you on the Western world not embracing suffering or pain. (Oh so true, and yet as Thomas Kelly writes, one of the fruits of the spirit is the ability to enter into suffering.) I wouldn't want to live in a world in which everybody stuffed their pain down so as to appear "happy." (I was doing "complaint free world" with a friend yesterday and she said, "You're halfway to Scientology." Luckily we could laugh about it and my desperate attempts to turn lemons into lemonade--and what is humor, often, but complaints rendered joyful?

I also loved the reference to Job's friends--they DO get tired of his "complaining" (even though he, of all people, has a basis for being upset.) And so often that happens in real life--people don't want to hear the pain after a certain quickly-reached point and then brush it off. I think you make a great point that we need to be willing to take the time--I think we would both say to step out of fast paced American cultural time and into God time--and be with people through their pain. Not easy to do. Anyway, take care and God be with you my dear!!!