No Complaints

Two Christmas' ago, I was in a car with my sister and cousins riding to dinner. I was fairly zoned out of the conversation, but the cousin driving started telling a story that stole my attention and has been imprinted on my heart ever since. She informed us that the day before, she had gifts sitting in the trunk. Someone bashed her windows, broke into her car, and stole almost everything inside. This was Christmas Eve, and I can only imagine the struggle of having to rebuy gifts, find time to repair the damage, file a police report, stay composed for her three little boys, etc. It would've certainly taken me out the Christmas spirit. But she told this story with such levity, spirit unbothered, as if she were talking about something ridiculous on TV  that happened to someone else, not her and the very car we were sitting in. She joked that the robbers were so petty, they even took the pack of gum she kept in the front pocket- "Like damn, you couldn't even spare my gum?!" We all burst into laughter and in awe, I learned this golden lesson: there is never a reason to complain because you're only the victim if you choose to be. 

How many people would've responded that way? Versus the far greater amount of people who would've let irritation bog them down, entering into a 'I'm having the worst day' frenzy and having negativity pervade. John 10:10 hits on this so well: "The enemy comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance." It also goes hand in hand with one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes, "The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief". Those robbers had the intention of ruining my cousin's day, but here she was with was the upper hand, enjoying her Christmas with family just the same, if not more. That moment they thought would reap grief instead produced a moment of bonding and amusement for us, and an opportunity for me to write this two years later. There's a strength that comes from realizing the world can give you whatever it wants, but ultimately you will decide how you'll use it. When you access that power to use all things for good, you can laugh in the face of anything. 

Let's zoom out. This speaks well on paper, but when your boss irks your nerves, or the train is 20 minutes late, or that person you expected to come through lets you down, this logic does not come naturally. I've heard John 10:10 dozens of time, but this week, second half has been jumping out at me: we were intended to 1) enjoy life and 2) have an abundance mentality. That's where the enemy - or if you're not spiritual, the world in general- gets you. Do you realize that in order to complain, you need to have something to complain about? And if you have something, you can focus on what's there, not what you lack? And that you can still enjoy life in spite of that circumstance? I see complaint as blindness to blessing. You hate that your job is so demanding sometimes ? Well, you have a job, you have money going into your bank account, you have an opportunity to grow & establish yourself. You hate that you don't have your dream body? You have your current body, which has worked everyday to sustained you thus far- and if you feel so pressed, you have a motivation to renew your diet and exercise habits. I'm sure my cousin wasn't thrilled about what happened, but she had a car, she had a family for the gifts, she had the money to pay for what needed to be done, she had a holiday to celebrate. 

There are objectively terrible things that happen, say cancer, that warrant being upset. Yet when someone you love is in jeopardy, how much more do you see and appreciate the loved ones you still have? All the little things that seemed complain-worthy before pale in comparison to the value of that one person's life. What if you valued your own life at that same level and could pale all your minor inconveniences in the same way? How much time could you save taking that perspective voluntarily than waiting to be put in the dire life or death situation that forces it? Cancer is when cells abnormally divide and start to destroy body tissue. Couldn't complaint be likened to cancer- overly breaking apart a situation or 'lack' in your head until it becomes a tumor, and your negative thoughts attack your sense of gratefulness and satisfaction?

My mom and I have never meshed. I don't have the freedom to move out right now, so I'm stuck at home.  I don't know when I'll leave, but I know if I spend everyday hating it, that's will be too many days of my life wasted. With that same energy, I figured I could be proactive in finding ways to make it bearable. To minimize arguments, I started writing down the things she got upset over and common themes were revealed to me, making it easier to bridge the gap. I learned to hold back my tongue and pride. Sometimes I have to go the extra mile, doing things I hate to do, because seeking what's best for the household means a better environment for everyone.  So what I spent years complaining about and being anxious to get away from was actually growing empathy, patience, humility, love, and forgiveness I didn't know I had in me. A space of lack is a space to sow seeds. Abundance mentality. 

Complaining is easy, it feels good, but it can do nothing to serve you. It's false sense of release that helps you ignore the fact that you gave this external condition more leverage over your joy than the inward condition of your heart. It's a defense mechanism for when you feel powerless. Each time a complaint forms on your lips, you're reinforcing your weakness to yourself. The enemy/world wants you to stay fixated on 'I don't have what I want', but you have the power to declare, 'I have what I have and that's enough.' Because you do. The power to laugh. A mind and spirit that can get around/through/over that thing. The opportunity to maximize and multiply what's there. Believe that you have more than enough to enjoy life and you will.