No Faith in Complaints

People like to complain.

Yeah, Paul,” you might say, “thanks for that big news flash.

Yes, it’s nothing new.  We like to complain.  People build monuments to their complaining.

A History of Complaining

Moses leads the Nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.  No sooner does the Red Sea return to form then the complaints start.  They complained there wasn’t enough water.  So God gave them water.  They complained there wasn’t enough food (I’m HUNGRY!), so God gave them all the manna they could want.  So they complained about the lack of variety (Is this all there is?)!.  They complained about the long trek in the desert (Are we there yet?).  They complained about their leaders, even the ones who not too long ago led them out of slavery (Do you know where we are going?  Did you check the map?  Shouldn’t you stop at a gas station and ask directions?)!

Come to think of it, they kind of set the precedent for many of the complaints we use today!

Complaining on the Media

Andy Rooney revived his career by acting as a curmudgeon on the TV show 60 Minutes.  Every week, Andy would pick a different topic to take off on and complain about.  One that always stuck out in my mind was complaining about shampoo and how expensive it is and how it is marketed, stating that all he does is take a little bath soap and rub it in his hair.

Then in 2007 there was this ABC news story about a “complaint choirs“, groups of people who put complaints to music.

There’s actually a website called My Biggest Complaint that documents the popularity of various complaint topics.

Local Complaints

We live in what used to be a rural area, which means wild animals.  So one neighbor shortly after we moved in complained about the peacocks wandering the neighborhood and wanted them removed by Animal Control.  Uhhhh, why exactly did you move out here?

No Solution in Sight

The problem with complainers is that there is generally very little action behind it.  In fact, quite often the complaints about things which nobody can really do anything about.  It’s like the old joke that everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it!

People who complain are generally not people who take action.  As Edmund Burke once commented

It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.

Complainers don’t want action, they don’t want resolution.  They want to tell everyone about it!  If your solve the problem, well, now they can’t tell everyone about it.  I mean, seriously, have you ever tried to help a chronic complainer solve a problem.  They will resist with every fiber of their being and come up with every reason in the book why it can’t be solved.  Why? Because they don’t want it solved, they want to complain.  It’s a happy place!

There is Another Breed

You and I are different.  We want to take action and solve problems.  We want to work towards solutions and help make the world a better place.  I certainly remember graduating from college with the arrogant attitude of changing the world with my ideas.  After awhile, you discover that the world is not as receptive to your revolutionary ideas for changing themselves as you thought they would be.

Changing the world can be a very daunting task.  There is so much to be done!  We don’t have enough people to do it or enough time.

Perhaps the problem is that we are so focused on trying to change what we can’t that we forget to change what we can.  There is an old verse, no one is quite sure who wrote it, that goes like this

“Build a better world,”  God said.   I answered, “How?

The world is such a deep, dark place, oh so complicated now; 

And I’m so small and useless, there’s nothing I can do.”

But God in all His wisdom said, “Just build a better YOU.”

If we want to change the world, we must first change ourselves.  In fact, that should be our focus.  And that alone is an extremely challenging task.  We are as resistant to change as all those people we tried to change before.  But we have to believe that we CAN change.  We must have faith that we are capable of making the necessary changes.  Faith that we will acquire the wisdom, the courage, the discipline, and the focus to re-invent ourselves and make something new.  When we change ourselves substantially, the world around us changes because our perspective changes, our attitude changes, and our approach changes.

If you want to believe in the world and believe in change, you must first have faith in yourself.  When you believe in you and your ability to simply serve others, the world will change for you.

Action Plan

  1. Create a list of character traits or characteristics you would like to have or improve; like discipline, focus, finish what you started, etc.  Shoot for at least 12 items.  Prioritize the list in terms of which ones need the most attention.
  2. For each one, define specifically what the desired behavior would look like.  In other words, how do you know when you are disciplined? How do you know when you are focused?  Make it measurable if possible.
  3. Try the Benjamin Franklin method of Self-Improvement.  I learned this from Bob Burg a while ago and found it very useful.  I would make that chart available but don’t own the rights to it; so you will have to make your own.  You can probably do this Microsoft Word or Excel.
    1. Make a grid chart with the days of the week at the top going across.
    2. In a column down the left side list the traits you want to work on in priority order.
    3. Attack the first trait in week one.  Concentrate on the desired behavior and each day place a check when you are successful.  You are building precedent for desired behavior.
    4. The next week attack the second trait, while still also being mindful of the first.
    5. Keep going until all traits have been addressed, each time being mindful of previous behaviors.
  4. Don’t worry if you falter on occasion; that’s to be expected. What we are shooting for is Progress, not Perfection.