Christian Living

What I learned when I stopped complaining for 24+ hours


Two weeks ago, our family traveled from Texas to Nevada so my spouse could go rock-crawling in our jeep. Having just written and brainstormed about curbing complaining, I was determined to implement it on the trip. I learned plenty of good lessons that I hope will help you as you work on kicking this habit. As I mentioned in the first post, the goal in this effort is to shine our light more brightly to the world around us. Just as excessive sugar depletes the body of nutrients, excessive complaining depletes our joy.

Lesson #1: It’s Hard

“Hello, I’m Captain Obvious…”

Preventing complaints demands significant concentration. I frequently paused before speaking to make sure what I was going to say was not a complaint or even a complaint incognito. There were plenty of times when I just stopped myself from talking altogether (a bit of a challenge for this chatterbox). I refrained from commenting on a post that read “Who else hates DST (Daylight Savings Time)?” because that too would have been complaining.

In order to be successful, I had to think through every word, every text, and every action.

Lesson #2: It’s Harder When You’re Tired

It’s no secret that humans are less efficient when exhausted. The night before we left, I had 5 hours of broken sleep. The first night we camped in Nevada, our campground buzzed with raucous laughter and loud music, making sleep impossible. The third night, I slept for eight solid hours. The fourth night, I slept for five hours before getting up at 3 a.m. to hit the road. As we traveled home, my anti-complaining campaign took herculean effort. I slipped up more than I care to admit.

We typically think of drugs or alcohol as the only factors affecting our sobriety, but the quality of our sleep can affect our sobriety as well. Take it seriously. We are commanded to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5.8) Fatigue weakens the mind.

We cannot always be on the top of our game, but if we can get more sleep, we should get more sleep. (This article at details more reasons to get more sleep!)

Lesson #3: Pray Your Way Through It

“Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all… Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

~ 1 Thessalonians 5.13-18, ESV, emphasis mine

This scripture is a good anti-complaining manifesto, among it’s other implications. Memorize it.

In the first segment, we are encouraged to be patient with our brethren. The more we complain about someone or something they do, the more resentment builds in our heart. We may think complaining is a good release, but it simply constructs negative neurological pathways. If someone or something persistently troubles you, take it to the Lord every time. It is not within our power to change people or circumstances, but it is within our power to choose our response.

Immediately following the encouragement to “pray without ceasing,” we read, “give thanks in all circumstances.” Our prayers should overflow with thanksgiving, as should our lives. Unfortunately, our lives mainly overflow with major and minor grumbles.

Complaining mixes with thanksgiving as effectively as oil mixes with water. The oil of complaint always rises above the water, making it useless. Whether you have a short or long-term complaint, take it to the Lord first and commit this to your memory: “If it isn’t worth the effort to pray, it isn’t worth the breath to say.” If I don’t think it is worth telling God about, then why am I talking about it at all?

Lesson #5: Sneaky Complaints vs. Addressing the Issue

Sometimes we couch our complaints in “speaking the truth.” If it’s thirty degrees and the pipes are frozen, it’s cold, and there’s no two ways about it. You could look at your neighbor and say, “It’s cold,” but that’s elementary, my dear Watson. Do you need to complain about the cold, or should you just deal with it? If the pipes are frozen, get down to brass tacks and focus on surviving until they thaw. Complaining will only dampen the situation, so why do it?

If there is sin or conflict to be dealt with, pray about it, consider how to address it, and tackle it head-on. Follow Jesus’ advice and go to the person directly (Matthew 18.15-18). Don’t air dirty laundry across the cables of the internet or whisper it to a friend.

Don’t forget—sighing loudly, or growling in frustration is still a vocalized complaint. When I first started working on this, I would catch myself sighing in exasperation as I stifled my words. Sighing, moaning, growling—those are still complaints even if they contain no words. Take deep breaths and redirect your thoughts.

Lesson #6: It’s Worth the Effort

The best part about my efforts—imperfect though they were—was the definite shift in both attitude and mood. I felt buoyant, cheerful, and optimistic. In not complaining about Daylight Savings, I found myself truly thankful when I realized the extra hour of sleep it afforded me.

A cheerful heart blossoms when we cultivate gratitude and quench complaints.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

~ Ephesians 4.29, ESV


27 thoughts on “What I learned when I stopped complaining for 24+ hours

  1. Elihu, I’m so convicted by this. Without a doubt, the Holy Spirit is at work through your post and in my life. I think I most struggle with sneaky complaints and non-verbal but yet vocal gestures like sighing. I’m going to make a conscious effort in this area.
    Thanks for your words of wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too, Beckie! I still have a long way to go, but I think I’m going to commit these verses to memory and plaster them wherever I can as reminders. Thank you for your comment & share via twitter!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I’m going to memorize the verses too. That is the most helpful—counteract the complaining with the Word. I shared on my author page on FB too. It’s too good not to share. Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks again! I haven’t forgotten about an article for you, I’ve been mulling over which past articles would be relevant for your publication. Hope you are well, sister! God be with you.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post, it is very helpful. I do have a goal of not speaking negatively; it can be hard to be with people who complain a lot. When you wrote about sighing, it reminded me of someone who sighs when I do something they don’t like. It does make me feel bad and sad to cause someone to sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this post. This is something I’ve been wanting to tackle for quite some time so I appreciate your insight. I especially love the bible passage (always have loved “pray without ceasing”) but I appreciate the relevance of this passage to the topic at hand. Blessings to you and yours and Happy Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This one was meant for me…hahaha. I’m in the process of sorting out some tech issues with the IT team at the workplace and just thinking about it makes me want to turn on the complaint hose. I’ve managed to go 2 days without complaining (aloud) and your post has encouraged me to keep the streak going. Thank you for writing this one. Very relevant and helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great job! The workplace gives us plenty of reasons to complain for sure. I am curious, did you notice an improvement in your overall mood/outlook?


      1. For sure. Not complaining made me see possibilities where I would’ve seen walls before. And I felt energetic and enthusiastic even at the end of a long and busy day.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry you are fighting that battle. I am not overly-familiar with Lyme disease, but the people I have listened to are often discouraged by it. Hang in there and may the Lord give you healing and comfort. I will add you to my prayer list!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks a bunch . I feel like paul – it is the sword in my side that keeps me humble “ for when I am weak .- he can be strong .” It is frustrating because there is no straight path to a cure . Blessings my friebd .

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! It can be so hard not to complain… especially when you have to be around those who do. I found that if I speak negatively about something, it always helps if I verbally turn it into a positive. It’s pretty therapeutic to reframe something you don’t like into something God can bring good out of!

    Liked by 1 person

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