Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. —Philippians 2:14-15
We love the plaque on a friend’s kitchen wall that says “I complained because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Every time we walk into that kitchen we are reminded that we spend too much of our time complaining and grumbling about things that really don’t matter. Complaining is just a bad, bad habit. Constant complaining and criticism shut down marital intimacy. Plus, complainers and grumblers are unhappy people.
Will Bowen recently wrote a bestselling book called A Complaint-Free World. He challenges his readers to stop complaining for twenty-one consecutive days. It has been said that’s how long it takes to break a habit. Chronic complainers may need a few more days than twenty-one to break their vicious cycle of unhappiness. Complaining traps you in a constant state of feeling like something is wrong.
A woman came up to us at a Ministry and Marriage seminar we were giving. She pointed to her husband, who was holding their baby. She said, “Our relationship changed for the better when I quit complaining and changed my expectations.” She told us her story: “I was always disappointed with my husband. He never met my expectations. One day I realized I expected him to be my best friend, passionate lover, counselor, perfect dad, handyman, spiritual leader, and provider, and I expected him to get in better physical shape. I had imagined a relationship that was basically out of a romance novel. I complained to an older woman at my church about my husband, who happened to be the pastor of the church.”
The woman, who had become somewhat of a mentor to the younger woman, said, “Does your husband come home sober from work? Is he engaged with your children? Has he been faithful to your wedding vows? Does he have a steady job? He doesn’t appear to be an extreme athlete, but does he take care of his body most of the time? Does he do the best he can?” I had to answer yes to those questions. She interrupted me before I could finish “But he doesn’t—” She smiled and said, “I would simply shut up about all he is not doing or being and praise him for what he does. The person who may need to change in the relationship is you.” The older woman quoted a famous verse from a modern-day poet:
If you don’t like it, change it.
If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
Don’t complain. 1
If you find yourself complaining about your spouse or your place in life, maybe you are the one who needs to change first. Even one step in the right direction away from complaining and toward affirmation will do wonders for your relationship.
1 Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (New York: Bantam Books, 1994), 87.