(Notes from a talk delivered July 3, 2011)

Several years go Unity Minister Will Bowen and members of his Kansas City congregation began a 21 day challenge to change personal thinking and perceptions by not complaining. It caught on – the purple bracelet.

The 21 day challenge is simple – become aware of how often you complain about something or someone and decide, at that moment, to re-state the thought. The purple bracelet is a reminder to do that. After doing that for about three weeks, it becomes habituated and instances of complaining, gossiping, grousing and bitchin’ are greatly reduced.

But why bother? Maybe it feels good to give someone an earful of what’s wrong with them, or discuss behind the scenes how something could be run better. Feeling “good” is relative. What feeling “good” for someone who usually feels depressed is not the same “good” feeling for someone who usually feels optimistic. Yet the “good” feeling is better, preferred, over the usual, or base, feeling. So, keep that in mind when you hear me talk about “feeling good” – I’m not talking about a euphoric Joy (but I could be) I’m talking about feeling better – good – than the usual state. Feeling “good” is relative to each person.

Your grandmother got it right: If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. That’s quite different from “if you can’t say something nice about someone, come sit next to me.” (Hint: Both are the Law of Attraction in action.)

The intent to go through the day without complaining is not some saccharine, airy-fairy, crystal gazing, popcorn psychology, goodie-goodie thinking. It is a very real shift in perception, interpretation, and expression that results in a more satisfying day-to-day experience. Remember that Charles and Myrtle Fillmore described Unity as “practical Christianity” – meaning that the teachings of Jesus were practical, down-to-earth, ways of living a more satisfying Life by becoming aware of your thinking.

There are two fundamental belief systems at play here. One is the belief that thinking/thought is an evolutionary response to a separate, three dimensional universe. In effect, the world is something out there and dangerous and only through struggle with it can we survive. The other belief is that the energy we recognize as “thought” is universal, and creates what our senses interpret as a separate, 3-dimensional universe and world. And, because we do think, we can participate in the creation.

It’s not a matter of right or wrong, both beliefs are true, in the sense that belief determines perception, which guides decisions. If a person believes that life is a struggle against a harsh world “out there”, then that world does exist for that person. They may believe that they must struggle to achieve anything or struggle to be worthy of feeling good, or something like that.

For someone who believes that the world is a reflection of thoughts/thinking and by changing thinking the experience changes, than world exists for that person. A belief is not fixed, it changes. The thought process is always evolving. The “Complaint Free” concept is a philosophical change for many.

Everything begins as a thought – a creative impulse of something desired. That thought attracts similar thoughts (thoughts are energy vibrations) and assembles the materials and actions to manifest the desire. Remember that energy and matter are one and the same: E=MC².  Thought is energy, thus thought can express as matter (if you want to look at it that way.) How this creative energy is defined is always evolving. I suspect that in the not too distant future this source energy will be recognized as a quantum Consciousness.

You create your experience every day. You really do. In fact, you’re so good at it, that you’re not aware you’re doing it. For instance, let’s say you’ve decided one day to go out for lunch, or maybe dinner. You thought about what you’d like to eat, where you’d like to eat it, who’d you like to join you, when you’d like to do it, and then you brought together how to get to the restaurant, how you’d pay for the meal, and so forth. You create your experience every day.

What Complaint Free suggests is taking that creation to a higher (more comfortable and fun) level. And it’s based on the Law of Attraction. The Law is inescapable – that which is like unto itself attracts, or gathers. That’s why we have elements – an atom of gold gathers atoms with the same structure. The same with molecules, herds, flocks and the person saying “if you can’t say something nice about someone, come sit by me.”

High and low, it’s the same law, the same process. Remember, we’re so good at using the law that we’re often unaware we’re doing it. As for complaining, there’s a very good reason for reducing the time and energy devoted to examining what is “wrong” with other people, circumstances, situations, and your own self. Simply put, it is not possible to feel Good and feel “bad” at the same time. People usually do not “complain” when feeling good. Chronic complainers seldom feel good, or enjoy themselves.

Now, which came first? Feeling bad, then complaining? Or, Complaining, then feeling bad? Let’s look at the way clinical trials are designed for research for a clue.

Before a medicine or health practice is made available to the public it undergoes “clinical trials” or tests, to verify that it is effective and does what is claimed. In a clinical trial a group of similar people are recruited – same demographics, same diagnosis if the trial is for a means of treating a disease or disorder, and so forth. This group is then divided into three sub-groups: The intervention group – these people will actually be given the medicine or treatment. The non-intervention group – these people are not given the medicine or treatment but instead a placebo, the infamous “sugar pill.” Otherwise, they go through the same process at the intervention group. The final group is a control group and nothing is done with them.

At the end of the trial period everyone is measured to see what impact the medicine or treatment had. A successful trial (for the makers of the medicine or treatment) is when a statistically significant number of the intervention group show improvements and reduction of symptoms, and the other two groups show little or no change.

The nagging little issue that never goes away is the number of people in the group given the placebo who get better. That percentage is sometimes as high as those in the treatment group. For these people their improved health was not due to the “medicine” or treatment, but their expectation that the medicine would help them. It’s called the Placebo Effect. It’s well known, but because it’s hard to measure and determine cause/effect, at least to science, it’s not given prominence. Oh, some of the control group folks may show improvement, but they likely got distracted with something enjoyable and didn’t pay much attention to the trial.

Now, if merely thinking that you’ll get better by taking a new medicine, which in fact is only a sugar pill, can make you healthier, well, why not make that a regular practice?

A change in thinking and expectation affects your health. Nothing in your Life experience is more directly influenced by thinking than the body.
Rev. Bowen begins his book, “A Complaint Free World” with the story of a man who had headaches at work. He’d come home each evening and complain to his wife about his bad headaches, the bad day at work, and so on. After a while he realized that complaining about his headaches to his wife wasn’t making them go away, so he stopped talking about them. It slowly dawned on him, later, that he no longer had the headaches.

It’s irrelevant which came first – the dis-ease or the complaining. The only variable you have immediate control over is your thought, right this moment. You can think about something else. It costs nothing to change your thinking. You don’t have to have permission to change your thinking. Nobody else can do your thinking for you (nor can you think for someone else!) What wonderful power we have.

One of the first things I hear when discussing complaint free is the statement “but if I don’t complain, how will anything get better?” The person thinks that no-complaints = tolerating bad things/people/situations. Absolutely not. People who manage to reduce complaining actually become better problem solvers when the problem is fact based. An observation of something is a fact: “Waiter, this steak is cold.” A complaint personalizes the observation and adds internal elements: “How dare the waiter bring me cold steak!” The mis-prepared steak becomes a deliberate attack on the person.

The solution to a fact of cold steak is to notify the waiter of the problem and ask that the meat be heated. For the complainer, the waiter is now an adversary and the status of the steak becomes a test of wills. That steak may or may not get heated, or worse.

This personalizing is easily noticed in driving. You know, when that @!Q@!$!!! deliberately cuts you off in traffic, or deliberately pokes along knowing that you’ll catch the red light, or, well you know the scenarios. Is the other driver deliberately attacking you? Perhaps. More likely the driver is distracted and unaware of your presence. But if you interpret the fact as an attack on you, the dynamics change and no longer is it about car maneuvers. Are you going to be able to get the other driver to change his/her lousy driving habits?

Can you ever make someone do something to satisfy you? Can you ever make someone change? Can someone make you do something you don’t want to in order to please them? Can someone make you change?

The answer, of course, is no. But you can spend your entire life trying to make someone act right, or whatever. And you can play cops and robbers with those attempting to make you conform to their standards. The only thing anybody has control over is their own thinking, and thus their own decisions, and thus their own actions. That’s just the way it is.

Becoming complaint free is not about other people, circumstances and conditions. It is about you and how you interpret and thus respond to what you see/hear/smell/touch and sense around you. Personalizing observations attaches your sense of well-being to the actions and behaviors of others and to conditions beyond your control.

Theologian Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr is believed to have first written a form of a prayer that in some form had been around for a while. This is what he wrote:

“O God and Heavenly Father,
Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

It’s popularly called “The Serenity Prayer” and it is the essence of Complaint Free – change what can be changed and turn loose of attempting to control what can’t be controlled.

“But George,” I hear, “If I don’t complain about it, then all those SOB’s will get away with it.”

That’s a big concern – the wicked going un-punished, whether the wickedness consists of a crime, or insult, or “getting away with theft”, or, the list is endless, actually. Back to the Serenity Prayer!

This in an ancient concern, and it has been continually addressed. For example:
Leviticus 19:18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.

King James Bible Matthew 5:39
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

King James Bible Romans 12:19
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

The Law of Attraction ensures that everyone “accounts” for the nature of their thinking – which means their decisions and actions. In effect, “Let Go and Let God.” Certainly that’s what the biblical references state. It’s another way of saying give your attention to what you desire.
Complaining focuses on what you do not want in your experience, yet by thinking about what you do not want you actually bring more of the what you do not want into your experience. That’s the Law.

Oh, and about that irritating person who seems to be the source of so much of your trouble and discomfort – do you want to be like this person and live his/her experience? if not, then you don’t have to align your thinking with theirs. Afterall, you’ve got a full time job simply enjoying who you are, where you are, and what you are experiencing. Ah, now, that’s good.