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The Antidote for Complaining

When our focus is on God and things that are pure and lovely, we will have discovered the antidote for complaining.

I recently had a "sponsored article" pop up on my Facebook feed entitled The Science of Happiness: Why complaining is literally killing you, by Science and Nonduality an excerpt of which I will share in a little bit...

**Disclaimer**  I want to be clear that I in no way endorse or believe in any of the spiritual tenants this website professes. I merely found the science presented regarding the effects of complaining on the brain thought-provoking.  

The article's title drew me in because you guessed it, I'm a complainer.

What does complaining accomplish anyway?

Merriam-Webster shares the following simple definition of the word complain:

: to say or write that you are unhappy, sick, uncomfortable, etc., or that you do not like something
: to say (something that expresses annoyance or unhappiness)

The very essence of complaining is normally not something done in solitude, but with the purpose of telling others.

I am someone that wears her heart on her sleeve.  It's almost as though I need to express my complaints to others or I'll explode!  Not really, but you get the gist...

In reality, complaining is my ill-conceived perception that I am fixing the problem or the feeling that I am taking an active role in the situation - staying in control...

My need to complain is selfish and does not take into account the happiness of those around me.

Why we shouldn't complain

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

A joyful heart is good medicine
Proverbs 17:22

According to the article The Science of Happiness:  Why complaining is literally killing you, our "brains have a collection of synapses separated by empty space called the synaptic cleft. Whenever we have a thought, one synapse shoots a chemical across the cleft to another synapse, thus building a bridge over which an electric signal can cross, carrying along its charge the relevant information we're thinking about. It’s very similar to how nerves carry electric from the sensation in your toe all the way up to your brain where it’s actually “felt”.  

Every time this electrical charge is triggered, the synapses grow closer together in order to decrease the distance the electrical charge has to cross. The brain is rewiring its own circuitry, physically changing itself, to make it easier and more likely that the proper synapses will share the chemical link and thus spark together–in essence, making it easier for the thought to trigger.  Your thoughts reshape your brain...

...the synapses you’ve most strongly bonded together (by thinking about more frequently) come to represent your default personality: your intelligence, skills, aptitudes, and most easily accessible thoughts(which are more-or-less the source of your conversation skills)...  

It’s not just our thoughts that can alter our brain and shift those synapses; the thoughts of those around us can do it as well. 

When we see someone experiencing an emotion ( be it anger, sadness, happiness, etc), our brain “tries out” that same emotion to imagine what the other person is going through. And it does this by attempting to fire the same synapses in our own brain so that we can attempt to relate to the emotion we're observing. This is basically empathy. 

This is why it is so important to spend time with people who lift us up, because 'Debbie-Downer' friends are moving those fearful, cynical, pessimistic synapses closer together, making our default, short-path-personality as jaded and bitter as our peers. Want to be happy?  We need to surround ourselves with happy people who rewire our brain towards love, not towards fear.  I’m NOT saying don’t be there for friends who are having a hard time and need an ear or who need to work through a difficult situation. Nor am I saying you can’t be critical about the failings and injustices in the world. Positive change usually requires critical thought."

I think there might be some truth to the science presented in this article because I know the more I complain, the MORE I complain.  I get into a vicious cycle where I end up complaining about the silliest things.  Apparently my complaining synapses are attached!

I have also found that when I spend time with someone who constantly complains, I myself start complaining more, if not about my own problems, but about the other person's complaining.

It can be very exhausting to spend time with a complainer.  You can try to encourage them and be positive, but they just come back with another complaint and another complaint, discounting any encouragement offered.

Do I want to be a complainer that reshapes her brain to a default of ALWAYS complaining??

Do I want to be that complainer that exhausts people and causes them to stumble??  

God's Word has very clear admonishments against complaining...

Do all things without grumbling or questioning.
Philippians 2:14

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
James 5:9

And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, 
and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.
Numbers 11:1

Nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.
1 Corinthians 10:10

They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
Psalm 106:25

Through our complaining, we are not only negatively impacting the physiological make-up of our brains, but those we are constantly complaining to as well. 

The most devastating effect of complaining is that we are dragging Christ's name through the mud by such a poor testimony. 

Nothing touches us without coming from the hand of God first - from the biggest trial to the smallest nuisance, the Lord ordains those circumstances for our good and His good purposes.  

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
Psalm  37:23-24

So when we complain about anything effecting us, we are essentially complaining about God!  

May it never be!

The Antidote for Complaining

Soon after reading The Science of Happiness:  Why complaining is literally killing you, I read a quote by David Mathis from his book Habits of Grace which essentially describes the Biblical antidote to the scientific data about complaining presented in the article above.

"When we memorize lines from the Bible, we are shaping our minds in the moment to mimic the structure and mindset of the mind of God."

Let that sink in...

There is so much power in the active and living Word of God!  Power to reshape and renew our minds to have the mindset of God; a mindset that will pour out in our words and actions, bringing Glory to God!

Do not be conformed to this world, but BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWAL
 OF YOUR MIND, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, 
what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS.
Philippians 4:8

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our INNER SELF IS BEING RENEWED DAY BY DAY.
2 Corinthians 4:16

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

Ephesians 4:23

Therefore, PREPARING YOUR MINDS FOR ACTION, AND BEING SOBER-MINDED set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:13

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE TO OBEY CHRIST. 
2 Corinthians 10:4-5

SET YOUR MINDS ON THINGS THAT ARE ABOVE, not on things that are on earth.
Colossians 3:2

Let the song of our hearts be...

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,

Live in me from day to day,

By His love and pow’r controlling

All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His pow’r.

Kate B. Wilkinson

And we will see our days of complaining fade away... 

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  1. Wow, this is an amazing post! As I was reading it, I got to thinking about the children of Israel and how their complaining and grumbling got them into such trouble. I know what you mean...I just hate being around a negative person, and you are right, the more you try to lift them up out of their negativity, the more they prove that they do not want to change. It is very draining, and it will soon bring us down, too. We have so much to be thankful for, and there is so much joy in living a contented life and being thankful. Gratitude will kill a complaining spirit. Thinking of what life would be like without those who annoy us will change our perspective, too. Focusing on God's Word, as you have shared here, will totally renew our minds and get our focus on HIM and all He has done for us. Thank you so much for sharing your precious heart here, Karen. You are such a dear blessing and encouragement to me in so many ways, and I love and appreciate you so much! God bless you abundantly!

    1. Cheryl, Whenever I read about the Israelites complaining, I marvel at the Lord's patience with them, and most especially His patience with me when I succumb to complaining.

      I always appreciate you adding to the conversation with your wonderful insights.

      Thank you for your continued encouragement. It means so much!

      Blessings to you sweet friend!

  2. Wow! This is very good stuff, Karen! I love the connection you found between complaining and the antidote for it! I definintely need memorize more scripture to rewire my synapses.

    1. Thank you for your kind words.

      I know, I was quite amazed myself when I learned of all of this!

      Thank you so much for joining in the conversation. :-)

  3. Karen. I wear my heart on my sleeve too. But honestly I'm not much of a complainer. Yet you're so right...I do pick up the complaining when I'm with someone who complains. Blessed to be your neighbor at Testimony Tuesday.

    1. Tara, A wonderful virtue you have. :-)

      I didn't used to be a complainer either, but I have been around one for a very long time. I do, however, take full responsibility for my own drifting into a complainers spirit.

      So thankful that God always provides a way out of temptation. His Word is so powerful!

      I appreciate so much your taking the time to comment.

  4. Hi, Karen. Thank you for this post.
    I have had to make it a point to be positive and trust God each morning, because I was a glass half-empty kind of girl all my life.
    Glad I was your neighbor at #intentionaltuesday. :-)

    1. Gleniece, You are very welcome.

      Thank you for your Christ-centered example of being intentional to be positive at the start of every day.
      I appreciate you sharing that.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. I'm a stuffer by nature so don't really complain out loud but do in my head sometimes. If I'm in the midst of other complainers I feel like I'm marinating in it. Yuck! There is so much power in the word of God though! Great post.

    1. Laura, I like that, "a stuffer". Very well-said!

      Indeed there is great power in the Word of God.

      Thank you for your kind words, and for stopping by!

  6. Interesting to read the science behind our thoughts. I know that complaining begets complaining and its also contagious! I think this is one reason why Paul admonished us to purposefully think on that which is true, lovely, excellent, praiseworthy etc. How wonderful it would be to reprogram our brains in this way!!

    1. Karen, Great insight about Paul's admonishment on what we should set our minds on.


      Thank you so much for joining in on the conversation!

  7. Karen, I find all of this so fascinating! Have you ever heard of Dr. Caroline Leaf? She is a born again Christian who happens to be a neuroscientist. She has proven most of what is said in terms of "thinking" in the Bible through science. She says the same thing that we can literally rebuild our brains through our thought patterns. If you haven't read her info, you can check it out here: It's truly amazing how God has wired us! Neighbors with you today at Word Filled Wednesday.

    1. Indeed!

      No, I have never heard of Dr. Caroline Leaf before. Thanks for sharing her information.

      Indeed, the Lord has wired us to live now and preparation for our future home, with Him in Glory.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. :-)

  8. I love your wise thoughts and the Bible verses you've shared. It is amazing to think we have a part in programming our brain - and responsibility for our thought lives. I read a book by a Christian neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf "Who Switched Off my Brain" giving similiar research. Thanks for bringing this 'to mind'!

    1. Sandra, Thank you for your very kind words of encouragement. All Glory to God.

      You are the second person to comment about Dr. Caroline Leaf. It sounds like a very interesting read.

      You are very welcome. :-)

  9. You picked some great verses. Philippians 2:14 was one of the first I had my son memorize! The way it continues is great, too. "So that you may be blameless and pure, shining as stars in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation."

    1. Thank you. The Lord always leads me to just the right verses for posts.

      Wonderful verse for your son and all of us to remember, that we are shining stars to shine the light of Christ to a dying world.

      I appreciate so much your joining in the conversation. :-)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Karen, what a great reminder. I never want complaining to be my default mode. The scriptures you shared are powerful truths to guide us to be content! Blessings and wishing you a joy-filled Sunday! Pam @ Everyday Living

    1. Pam, Thank you so much for sharing your kind words of encouragement.

      Indeed, hiding God's word in our hearts will foster contentment.

      Thank you so much for stopping by. :-)

  11. I can be the queen of complaining and being a Debbie Downer more often than I care to admit. I am thankful for good friends who call me up and help me to see the positive in my life. Thanks for sharing at Weekend Whispers.

    1. Barbie, Thank you for sharing about your friends. It is a blessing for "us Debbie Downers" and an encouragement to be the positive voice in our friends lives.

      I appreciate so much your stopping by. :-)

  12. What a wonderful post and a fabulous reminder. I can complain sometimes too. I, as well, wear my heart on my sleeve... I think that's why I complain - because I can't stifle a discouraging thought.

    I love the scriptures you shared here!

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely day.

    1. Jennifer, Thank you for such kind words.

      Exactly!! That's how I feel. Like, "I can't stifle a discouraging thought".

      May God's Word and His promises cause our praises to drown out our complaints.

      Thank you for stopping by. :-)


  13. It is amazing that science continues to back the Truth of God even when the two are said to be separate from each other. Thanks for sharing with #TheCozyReadingSpot

    1. Marissa, I agree!

      Thanks so much for joining in the conversation.

      I appreciated your visit! :-)

  14. Wow, I've never considered that complaining could actually rewire our brains to be more negative. It makes perfect sense, though.
    I'm going to share this with some ladies in my Bible study. We've begun memorizing some Bible verses together, so this really helps highlight how important it is that we commit the Word to memory so we are shaped by it instead.

    1. Shannon, I know. I am with you, I didn't realize that either.

      Praising God for His encouragement to you and to your Bible study.


  15. I absolutey love this post and I will be featuring it in our next round of Grace & Truth link-up. Thank you so much for sharing it with the G&T community. It's a needed message and full of insight. Thank you!

    1. Holly, Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words and for the feature at Grace & Truth. It means so much!

      Praising God for His guidance as I wrote the post.

  16. Thank-you for sharing your thoughts on these articles. It is an encouragement to spend time in the Word and memorize scripture. And it is a reminder to me to be aware of complaining.

    1. Carol, You are very welcome! :-)

      Indeed it is.

      Thank you so much for stopping by. :-)


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