Not To Complain


Not To Complain

It would have been a comfortable chaise lounge, except it was in Dr. Black’s brightly lit dentist’s office. He walked in and asked, “Rabbi, how are you doing today?”

I usually give a thought-filled response.

However, in this situation, I was impeded by the hygienist’s fingers. And, the knowledge that Dr. Black had a job to do – and the knowledge that he’s not my therapist.

With only a slight distortion in my speech, I told him, “I can’t complain.

As he worked in my mouth, I reflected that I had picked the perfect day to restart the 21-day no-complaint challenge.

As he began to drill out a cracked filling he mused, somewhat aimlessly, but with a little hint of Little Shop of Horrors.

“Really? You can’t complain?”

The man’s timing is inadvertently hilarious.

Fortunately, I’m hilarious too.

I grunted/sing-songed sounds, continuing on and on, inflecting, pausing, imitating speech.

The hygienist laughed. Dr. Black smiled.

During a break from fingers and instruments in my mouth, I explained a little about the 21-day non-complaint challenge. One of the fun things about the 21-day no-complaint challenge is that the title alone piques the interest of nearly everyone who hears about it.

Background and logic

Will Bowen, a Kansas City minister, started the 21-day no-complaint challenge as a way to help his parishioners live more grateful lives.

Here are his words:

Complaining is like bad breath – you notice it when it comes out of someone else’s mouth, but not when it out of your own.

My words:

Complaining gets in the way of our finding gratitude with what is.

Mathematically, not complaining makes perfect sense as part of a gratitude practice.

Being consciously grateful of blessings is a wonderful thing, but it is only half of the equation. Refraining from complaining is the other half.

Gratitude Practice = Thankfulness – Complaints

Your gratitude practice is equal to the number of times you are consciously grateful minus the number of times you complain.

Complaints in your head don’t reset the clock. Only ones you do aloud count. (You aren’t a Jedi, you can’t control your thoughts.)

However, most of the people who hear about the 21-day no-complaint challenge, don’t try it

I find this curious.

People tell me that they want to improve their lives. That they want to complain less. But, then they tell me that they cannot stop complaining.

I ask “Did you learn to walk without falling?”

“All accomplishment take commitment and practice,” I explain.

They look at their phones and pretend they have something to do.

I have three semi-ok explanations as to why people don’t try the 21-day no-complaint challenge:

(1) Our society seems to give bragging rights to the person in a group who has the greatest hardships. And, we seem set on winning that contest.

(2) In the Talmud, (Berakhot 5b), one rabbi asks another, “Is your suffering dear to you?” We like the reality we have. We don’t really want to change.

(3) We believe our lives will improve without effort. Magic!

It’s probably more complicated than that.

You probably have some reason that complaining works for you.

That’s cool.


Don’t complain for 21-days.

It will probably take you about 100 days – about 20 tries – until you can go a full 21-days without a complaint.

Here are some tips:

  • Find a buddy you can do this with; it helps a lot to not do this alone.
  • The app “days since” is a good one for resetting and keeping track of progress

DOWNLOAD APP: Apple / Android

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