Truth time… I have noticed myself allowing complaining to creep into my life more and more lately. This is obviously not a good thing. Although I know it isn’t serving me and is is a habit that is damaging both to myself and to others, I have been uncertain how to break the cycle.
I typically use the practice of gratitude (more on this below), which I know helps to retrain my mind to see the positive within even the most negative situations. The problem is that I have been trapped in the complaining habit for so long now that I realize at this point, it will take more than gratitude to break its hold on me. All I could do was seek the Lord and ask for His help and His wisdom to change. It isn’t something I can do on my own and I’m also certain that it isn’t Biblical for me to attempt change in my own power.
A few weeks ago Amanda Wright (you can see her site here, and you can follow her Instagram –> @a.wrightfit) happened to recommend a sermon series to me from Life Church (see also @life.church called My Big Fat Mouth. I finally got around to starting it a few weeks back. The first sermon in the series was on complaining, and it absolutely spoke strait to the heart of what I am going through and how to deal with my complaining habit in the Lord’s power, strength, and wisdom. Amanda’s recommendation was an answer to my cry to the Lord. I hope that anyone else who is reading this will take the time to click the link and listen to this sermon and the others in the series too! I binge-listened to all four sermons in one day 😂
If we can’t change our circumstances, we can at least change our attitude toward them.
I mentioned before that my usual way to keep myself looking for the good in things is my gratitude practice. More, specifically, I keep a gratitude journal. 🙏🏼
The science behind the gratitude journal is extensive, but to summarize, what I do daily is write 3 new things I am grateful for in a notebook. When you first start doing this, it is easy to find things you are grateful for. Over time, you will exhaust the obvious things, and in order to come up with 3 new things each day, you’ll have to look deeper for things to be grateful for (think: every cloud has a silver lining). So you can see how, over time, this helps train your brain (science has shown it will actually start to “rewire!”) so that you look for positive things, even within negative circumstances. After doing it for long enough, it will carry over into your thoughts on everything you face—automatically. You’ll find that you will start to come up with good things in negative situations before you even realize that is what you are doing!
So, even with this well-established habit, I still found myself complaining more than I wanted. It wasn’t that I stopped being grateful for things. I did still see opportunity for good in the circumstances that I was complaining about, but I wasn’t talking about that side of things with the majority of the people that I was engaging in the grumbling and complaining sessions with. The truth is that I want to build others up with my words (1 Thessalonians 5:11a) and not cause them to stumble (Matthew 18:6).
“Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11a
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in and acknowledge and cleave to Me to stumble and sin [that is, who entices him or hinders him in right conduct or thought], it would be better (more expedient and profitable or advantageous) for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be sunk in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6
What I needed was the truth of how much my words matter (Proverbs 18:21) and that is exactly what the sermon reminded me of. I cannot speak life and truth while I am complaining (James 3:11).
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life].” Proverbs 18:21
“Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. These thing, my brethren, ought not to be so.” James 3:11 Every time I find myself feeling like I might want to share a complaint, whether at work or home—even if it seems justified—I need to pause and think…
I need to ask:
-Is it true?
-Is it necessary?
-Is it productive?
If the answer is not yes to all 3, I probably don’t need to continue speaking! It likely isn’t something that will help build other up.
Here was another kicker…Pastor Groeschel mentioned in the message on complaining that the act of complaining actually rewires our brain for more negativity! What!? No wonder my gratitude practice wasn’t enough to overcome the process. When I complain, I am essentially removing my ability to see from the perspective of gratitude. What he said in his sermon hit hard:
“Complaining takes our eyes off of the enormous blessings around us and the goodness of the grace of our God and puts it on the smallness of ourselves.”
The Bible says that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).
I apparently was not storing up enough good in my heart.
“Good people do good things because of the good in their hearts. Bad people do bad things because of the evil in their hearts. Your words show what is in your heart. The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45
In order to change what comes out of our mouth, we must change what is in our heart. Which leads to the question…
What is the best way to change the things I am storing in my heart?
- Consume More Scripture:
Benefit: Replace what is in your heart with scripture. This is our best defense against the attacks of Satan and against sin.
“I have taken Your words to heart [treasured and stored Your words in my heart] so I will not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11
Benefit: Worship increases our joy and allows us to move closer to God. The closer we are to the Lord, the more like Him we become. He renews us from the inside out.
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name!” Psalm 100:4“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right and steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
- Spend Time With God:
Benefit: Spending time with God allows us to change our feelings and attitude. It also allows God to mold our hearts into conformity to His. Once we have a heart that is in line with the Lord’s, we can keep it that way by choosing to act in ways that honor Him. This cycle self-perpetuates: move close to Him—> He comes closer to you—> heart change occurs—> life purification occurs—> we grow closer to Him, and it then repeats.
“David was greatly distressed, for the men spoke of stoning him… But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6
“Move your heart closer and closer to God, and He will come even closer to you. But make sure to cleanse your life, you sinner, and keep your heart pure and stop doubting.” James 4:8
- Meditate On the Good:
Benefit: What we focus on expands. Focus on the good and it will take root in your heart. Once it takes root, it will begin to bear fruit.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
- Give Thanks:
Benefit: Expressing Thankfulness means we are training our mouths to speak an overflow of good. Thanking the Lord for whatever situation we find ourselves in is not easy to do, but it reminds us that we are taken care of, regardless of how we feel or what we would like to change. It allows us to see the good and count our blessings.“…in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Hopefully these ideas help you to move away from the complaining trap. Again, I found the sermon to be very helpful with shining light on the harm it can do, so don’t forget to listen to them too!
This verse sums things up nicely…
“Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world, Holding out [to it] and offering [to all men] the Word of Life, so that in the day of Christ I may have something of which exultantly to rejoice and glory in that I did not run my race in vain or spend my labor to no purpose.” Philippians 2:14-16 AMPC
1/ What have you found to be your best defense against allowing yourself to fall into the trap of complaining?
2/ What do you do to help shift the conversation when others are complaining?