Is it possible to be a responsible, savvy, and diligent advocate for yourself and others without complaining? ….ever?
Can you do it as a person with a chronic disease or other major life stressor, or as a senior experiencing advanced aging issues causing disability?
Does complaining actually take away our power and reinforce the very thing we think we’re wanting to change?
Some of you may be aware that back in 2007, a stir around the nation for the 21-day complaint-free challenge happened, an originally local (church-centered) campaign that has now turned into a worldwide movement for a complaint-free world.
I was initially skeptical, as someone who did a fair amount of complaining about pretty much everything at the time (and still do sometimes, you may be thinking, if you read my holiday blog posts, not to mention a few others….)
But when I read more and realized this wasn’t a call for docility or complicity of the “shut up and listen” type, but something much more radical in its effects on supporting TRUE, lasting and meaningful change in the world, I was inspired to participate and spread the news,
… even though I deeply value constructive criticism and challenging the way things might be done better in my own life or in the outer world.
- because complaining rarely works on more than a superficial level
- because we tend to complain to the people who can’t do anything to change the underlying issue (making others and ourselves unhappier)
- because we use complaining to avoid looking deeper at ourselves and others, moving away from responsibility and empathy- avoiding examining why we aren’t acting to change the situation or accepting that someone is doing the best s/he can under the circumstances
Simply, it keeps us from being our best and most powerful selves.
A quote from Maya Angelou used by the complaint-free campaign sums it up well:
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
The concept of a complaint-free world is pretty much another version of the serenity prayer, not to mention an idea encompassed in the essence of pretty much every wisdom, religious, and spiritual tradition around the world.
Summing it all up is the following post from The Working Caregiver blog, used with permission from author Susan Avello, with very relevant advice, straight out of the mouth of an almost century old nursing home resident:
A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready. As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.
“I love it,” he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. “Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait.” “That doesn’t have anything to do with it” he replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged … it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away.. Just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories! Thank you for your part in filling my Memory Bank. I am still depositing.”
He went on to say:
Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.
Italicized section above by Susan Avello, from her blog, The Working Caregiver