A while back I tried a period of not criticising people, it was an interesting experiment, if rather difficult. In a similar vein I thought it would be interesting to see what life is like if we make zero complaints about anything.
We tend to be chronic complainers. We complain about other people, about our work situation, about what is on telly, the fact Gas prices have risen 15%; we complain about what is happening in our life, in our house and around the world. There seems no end in sight to our long list of complaints.
Living without complaining is not burying our head in the sand thinking the world has no problems. The crucial question is – what does complaining achieve? How does constant complaining affect our own life? Does complaining about things we have no control help in any way?
You Can’t Change The World But You Can Change Yourself.
The road to inner peace is never dependent on ironing out all the problems of society and the world first. Governments will always be making bad decisions, buses will always be arriving late, and electronic devices will always be breaking down. If we write down what we most like to complain about, these will probably not change. Some people think that – only if they could move country all their complaints will vanish; but, this is wishful thinking, the problems will be there in other countries just in other forms.
The important thing is to change our attitude. Rather than complain, we can tolerate mistakes of others; rather than complain over silly things, we can maintain an attitude of detachment. We need to love and accept the world as it is. We cannot wait for the world to be perfect before we love. The important thing is to be positive – looking for the good rather than looking for legitimate complaints.
Complaining v Gratitude
When we complain we look for the negative. We give power to our negative thoughts and the world seems a darker place. If we look for the positive, if we aspire to cultivate gratitude for the good in life – our outlook will completely change. We will give power, focus and attention to the good and beautiful. We constantly have choices – either complain or be grateful, only ourselves can make this choice.
Complaining and Mistreatment.
There is a great scene in Fawlty Towers (Waldorf Salad I think) – Two old ladies are served some grizzly old meat; it’s so overcooked they can barely eat it. When Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) asks if they are enjoying their meal they fake a smile and say ‘O, yes Lovely’ But, as soon as he turns his back they screw up their face and spit out the meat. They then start complaining to each other about how bad it is. It is said this is a typical English and Canadian trait – we don’t stand up to bad service. We don’t say anything outwardly, but we bitterly complain inwardly. This reluctance to complain outwardly has not helped; it just means we complain silently and nurse our grievance. If we have a legitimate grievance it is good to politely and calmly express it. It gives chance for the other person to rectify their bad service and it means we are less likely to nurse a perpetual grievance over the overcooked steak a la Fawlty Towers. What we are trying to avoid is the perpetual inner complaining.
Complaining over Things we Have No Control.
There are many things in life which are unjust, unfair and unpleasant. We tend to be drawn to to the negative things we see around us and instinctively we start to complain about everything that is wrong. But, our complaints do not make an iota of difference. They do not change the problem, we just become depressed at the problems in life. There is a big difference between complaining and doing something about it. The old maxim ‘actions speak louder than words’ is oft repeated but, there is much wisdom in that saying. Complaining is essentially a negative act with no positive energy to change things.
Complaints are Often misinformed.
Often we complain but we maybe complain on false premises. We love to complain about higher taxes, but, if we didn’t have higher spending on public services like education and health care, we would be complaining about that. – It’s easy to complain, it’s more difficult to do something about it.
Another example. We may complain about a difficult person. However, that person could be forcing us to face up to our own weaknesses. Often when we dislike some thing about another person their fault exists in our own nature. Rather than complaining we have to learn to deal with difficult people; it may be an opportunity in disguise.
Complaints Don’t Solve Anything
If we tell the waiter the tea is cold, he can heat it up. But, most of our complaints do nothing to solve anything. We complain about the amount of litter on the street, but, do we ever pick up any litter? We can complain until we are blue in the face about the state of the economy and the government, but this will do nothing to make our life better. If we spent the same energy from complaints into something positive, we would have a chance to make a significant improvement to our life and people around us.
Complaining is essential a negative non-constructive activity which focuses us to focus on the negativity, it also often embodies a feeling of powerlessness.
photo by Pavitrata, Sri Chinmoy Centre galleries