Articles - Deb > Don't Complain?


Don't Complain?

I was giving the Saturday newspaper a cursory glance when a color photograph of two wrists adorned with purple rubber bracelets caught my eye (I love purple). The headline, for an article tucked in at the bottom of the page, read "A purple challenge for a world of whiners". A Unity church in Kansas City, Mo. had come up with the notion of inviting or challenging people to wear the bracelet "on the same wrist for 21 days without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping". The Unity church in Tampa had picked up on the idea, and three of its congregants had successfully completed the challenge. If one catches oneself kvetching about something, one must move the bracelet to the opposite wrist and start over, so it may take months to complete the task.

Wow! What an idea, I thought. This is clearly an update on the old behavior modification trick of wearing a rubber band on one’s wrist and giving it a snap to punish oneself for unwanted behavior. Simply switching wrists and starting over sounded much more humane, much more New Thought. The paper gave the Tampa church phone number, so I called and ordered a bracelet. But I was psyched and ready; I didn’t want to wait for it to arrive, so I found a lavender rubber band that had been around a bunch of broccoli and got started right away.

I didn’t last long. The band darted from wrist to wrist for maybe 48 hours, until, goaded by some giant domestic annoyance at the level of leaving the cap off the toothpaste, I jerked the band off and threw it aside, realizing that I WANTED to complain! I simply was not ready to put the band on the other wrist and resume the path to sainthood. I just wasn’t that nice a person. Well, it wasn’t the real bracelet, and this was only a dry run. Maybe if I just sat in my room and thought about it, I would be prepared to behave more appropriately. NOT!

A couple of weeks went by. I was relishing my freedom to complain without a ball and chain about my wrist, totally unrepentant. Yet some part of me was still mulling the thing over and, like comedian W. C. Fields reading the Bible, "looking for loopholes". Did it have to be 21 consecutive days? Could one string together a few hours here and there to add up to days? What you give your attention to, such as things to complain about, grows. That’s New Thought in a nutshell, and I knew it, which meant that I was living a self-contradiction in beliefs, and it didn’t feel good.

Then the official bracelet arrived in the mail. Carved into one side was the word "SPIRIT" and on the other, "A Complaint Free". I hurried to my computer and checked out the URL. It took me to a site posted by the Kansas City Unity church, telling all about the bracelet and the challenge. Impressive. But I didn’t put the bracelet on.

My bedtime reading—and rereading— for the past few months has been Terry McBride’s book, The Hell I Can’t, telling the story of his complete healing from a horrendous chronic illness. I would skip over all the gruesome medical details and begin reading about halfway through the book, where Terry describes, slowly and in detail, the changes in his thinking, his consciousness, that he went through in order to bring about his healing. New Thought is full of formulas and guidelines, but seldom if ever does a New Thought author outline exactly what went on in his head, for better or for worse, on the path to a much-desired goal. Terry realized that he was going to have to get his attention away from what he did not want and onto what he did want. In his case, it took a lot of doing because of the severity of his illness and the fact that doctors, counselors, spiritual advisors—everyone else—had given up on the idea that he could be healed and instead were actively peddling visions of life in a wheelchair, being a noble inspiration to others. But that was not what Terry wanted! The first thing he had to do was re-frame the words he was using to describe what he wanted, from negative (reversal of unwanted condition) to positive (truly desired condition). That was harder than it might seem and took a while, but it led to a desired chain of events, even though his path was long and had its ups and downs. Pastor Joel Osteen has remarked on television, "God changes us little by little", and goes on to explain that we already have what we desire on the inside but must work to bring it to the outside, not just overcoming our bad habits, but strengthening our good ones.

Another day or two went by. Then one morning, I glanced at the bracelet lying next to the calendar, and enlightenment struck. It was SPIRIT that was in all-capital letters. The point was not not to complain, but what? To build a better world, one individual consciousness at a time, starting with my own. To be the kind of positive thinker I wanted to be, in order to attract positive people, things, and events into my life and the lives of others. My positive intention was what mattered. If I wore the bracelet inside out, I would have SPIRIT on the inside (nah, too corny). The bracelet was a reminder of what to be, not what not to do; that would gradually follow when I got the being right: centered on God.

I put the bracelet on. I haven’t made it through three complaint-free weeks yet, but I have begun. And I heard a Unity minister the other day, jerking the bracelet from one wrist to the other, muttering, "I have raised complaining to an art form!" Haven’t we all! Let’s get our attention on what we want instead.