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Can We Stop Complaining?
By Susan Hines-Brigger


Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Give It a Try
For Teens: Make a Change
For Kids: What Makes You Happy?

My family had barely made it out of church following Mass on a recent Sunday morning when the complaining started. And, for once, it wasn’t my kids.

“Mass was too long,” said one parishioner.

“That homily was too preachy,” complained another.

“I don’t like the music the new choir director chose,” chimed in a third.

I’d like to say this was a rare occurrence, but unfortunately it’s not. More often than not these days, it’s the norm. Yes, these days it seems that we are surrounded by negativity.

Think I’m wrong? Take some time to stop and really listen to your own conversations and to those around you. Check out any news talk show on radio or TV and listen to some of the comments, especially during this election year. Hop on the Internet and read some of the comments made on message boards.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes complaining is necessary—and good. It can shed light on injustices or bring about change, such as the civil-rights movement. I’m talking about complaining for the sake of complaining.


Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Turns out there’s a minister in Kansas who thinks we’re all doing a bit too much complaining and being negative, too—and that it’s affecting our health.

The Rev. Will Bowen, minister of Christ Church Unity in Kansas, came up with an idea and issued a challenge to his parishioners: Try to go 21 days without complaining.

And to help them do it, he came up with the idea to hand out purple rubber bracelets and tell people to switch the bracelet from one wrist to the other every time they caught themselves complaining, criticizing or gossiping. The theory is that scientists believe it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit. The physical reminder of moving the bracelet can help ingrain that change into a person’s mind. But for some people it takes a lot longer. Personally, I switched my bracelet about 25 times the first day. I’m ashamed to say I think it will take much longer than 21 days.

The bracelets publicize, a Web site that features ideas for ways to use the bracelets and stories of those who have successfully taken the challenge. As of this writing, 5.5 million bracelets have been distributed throughout the world. A complaint-free curriculum for children from kindergarten to the 12th grade is available for download from the Web site. And Bowen has also written a book titled A Complaint Free World.

As we head into the holiday season—which can often foster quite a bit of complaining—try to do so complaint-free. Here are some suggestions to help:

Fast. Visit the Rev. Bowen’s Web site and order some bracelets. Order them for yourself, your family, friends, even members of your parish. Once I got my bracelet at work, courtesy of one of our freelance writers, my kids and others started asking me about it. I was surprised by how interested people seemed.

Start by focusing on one day. Then, after you’ve gone one day, try to go longer. You might be surprised at what a positive effect you can have on those around you.

Feast. There are a lot of positive things in our lives if we would just stop to take notice of them. When your family gathers for Thanksgiving this month, take some time to go around the table and have everyone say something positive about another person at the table. To make sure that no one gets left out, draw names before dinner.

Do something. If a situation arrives where you need to air a complaint, make sure you work to make the situation better. For instance, if you’re at a restaurant and your food is improperly prepared, don’t just gripe about it. Call it to the server’s attention and ask that it be fixed. And always remember to do so nicely.


Ask anyone, and they will tell you that the teenage years are not easy. Peers can be less than loving to each other as they try to discover exactly who they are and where they fit in.

You can choose, however, to go against the status quo and establish the type of person you would like to be—and become a bit of a social trendsetter. You can do that with small actions, such as refusing to pass along that bit of gossip someone told you or not making fun of people. Try offering someone a compliment about his or her outfit or an achievement he or she has made.

It’s not easy to complain when you’re happy and surrounded by the things that you love. So think of what makes you happy and then draw a picture that includes all those things. You can also use snapshots or pictures cut out of magazines. (Just make sure you get a parent’s permission first.) Hang the picture in your room, on the refrigerator or someplace you will be able to see it often as a reminder of what makes you happy. Ask other family members to join you in this project.


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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