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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Friday, March 30, 2007

A challenge for the weekend

Getting ready for work the other morning I saw Will Bowen, a minister from Kansas City, being interviewed on some cable news channel. I forget which one.

Anyway, he was holding up his wrist to show a purple rubber bracelet, sort of like those Lance Armstrong down-with-cancer bracelets.

The story was that last summer, after hearing a bunch of his congregants complaining about the church music selection and how some folks dressed at church and catching himself griping about the dismal performance of the Kansas City Royals, Bowen challenged his church to go three weeks without complaining...about anything.

Bowen got a bunch of these purple bracelets made and had "A Complaint Free World" engraved into 'em.

The challenge was that each time they slipped up and let out a gripe, congregants who chose to wear the bracelet had to switch to their other wrist and start counting from scratch.

Bowen says it took him about three months before he went 21 uninterrupted days. And so far more than 2.3 million of the bracelets have been ordered.

I like the spirit of the challenge. Even if I don't necessarily subscribe to Bowen's brand of religion, this challenge means well. We gripe too much. I gripe too much. Griping occupies 50% of my blog postings, I think.

I don't believe I'm wrong about the things I'm griping. But is it really doing any good to whine about so much so often?

I don't know. The Today Show, which did a story on Bowen, also interviewed a shrink who said it was sort of healthy to complain. It's cathartic, she said.

Still, I'm going to keep the pressure on city officials about nuisance neighbors, etc. But if it's not that sort of thing I think I'll try to cut back on my gripes this weekend. I'm gonna try to go two days. If that works, maybe longer. If you're curious about the challenge here's a link to it.



  • This is a great idea. I first heard about it because Oprah is challenging her make-up artist or hairdresser to it. I wonder how long I could go...

    By Blogger katrice, at 2:53 PM  

  • I can't participate, James. My whining makes me, me! hehe

    By Blogger Christina_the_wench, at 3:01 PM  

  • Dang, I really like that.

    By Anonymous og, at 3:41 PM  

  • Let's take it to the next level: for every complaint not spoken, express gratitude! I've been working on this concept of "conscientious language" the past few months and it has made a huge difference in my life.

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 3:46 PM  

  • Wow, I totally can not support that idea. To not complain means that the world is perfect and you would never want to change it.

    I for one want a lot of change in this world.

    By Blogger Wavemancali, at 4:06 PM  

  • ooh, I think it's a great idea. I whine and complain far too much, and it will probably nearly KILL me to give it up, but I think I'll give it a shot this weekend.

    Good post!

    By Blogger fiwa, at 5:11 PM  

  • It's a nice idea in theory. But, if I stop complaining I will be down to one blog post a week. (yeah, I know, nobody else sees a problem with that).

    Anyway, the only way I could do that would be if I don't turn on the tv or read the paper for those 21 days. Hmmm .. that might not be all that bad of an idea.

    By Blogger Jay, at 5:18 PM  

  • Katrice, figures Oprah's in on it. You know, I already have to start over. Just since I did this post this morning - shortly before noon - I've caught myself twice.

    Christina, I hear ya. My whining is one sign that I still have a pulse - I'm noticing things around me, even the stuff I hate.

    Og, I like it too. But why is everything noble so hard to live up to?

    MB, I'm gonna try your idea too. But I can't take it too far. I don't want to become Ned Flanders.

    WavemanCali, yours is an interesting theory. Hadn't thought of that. Not complaining could be sort of construed as being in denial or ignoring the faults of the planet. You know what? That's what I'm gonna use when I start guilting myself for complaining. Good stuff!

    Fiwa, we're trying together. Like I said to Katrice though. I'm already starting over, 'cause just since posting earlier in the day I've slipped up and let fly a couple of unnecessary complaints.

    Jay, you and me both. While I like the notion, I couldn't blog anymore 'cause so many of my posts are some form of complaint about knuckle-headed behavior.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 5:31 PM  

  • Had he been Catholic, he might have distributed bracelets for masturbating. I swear, the catechism I endured was heavily biased against wankery.

    By Blogger Matt, at 7:54 PM  

  • Forget the bracelet - use the rubber band method instead. After you let out your gripe, pull the rubber band away from your wrist a good four inches or so and let it snap. That'll cure you faster than some fad-wannabe bracelet.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 10:29 PM  

  • how about this??? no complaining on the weekends? that way your blog isnt affected (i cant remember if its effected or affected) by the non complaint thing. ;)

    if you cant do it a whole lot.. at least do it a little. ;)

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 10:52 PM  

  • burnett.. email me. asap. :)

    no .. your not in trouble.

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 10:53 PM  

  • You mean if I want to read the whole story, then I'll have to click on another link and wait until it pops up on the screen???

    I'm not getting any younger...

    By Blogger dennis, at 11:05 PM  

  • I don't think I can go the time it takes to post this comment without complaining.

    By Blogger Mitch McDad, at 11:36 PM  

  • That's brilliant! I am, I'm ashamed to admit, a chronic complainer. I need to challenge myself like this.

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 11:37 PM  

  • I think I could go two days without complaining...But on Monday I have to go back to work and it's all down hill from there.

    By Blogger captain corky, at 12:53 AM  

  • complaining is cathartic, huh?
    Well, so is green rhubarb, but it isn't very pleasant to be around it in action.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 1:52 AM  

  • I think it's a groovy idea, but I hate the way those rubberband bracelets....oops! ;)

    By Blogger Lee, at 8:06 AM  

  • I like the idea of folks being more positive--I have a friend who is always negative and even though I am a generally positive person it does wear me down some days. And don't get me wrong--I'm no "Ned Flanders'either. I like a good balance.

    By Blogger Turnbaby, at 8:59 AM  

  • I saw this on Oprah the other day and immediately went online and ordered up a couple of the bracelets. I complain ALL the time but it's not even about anything major and you know what? I'm starting to irritate MYSELF, so I can't even imagine how those around me must feel. I am so trying to cut down on that. Hope it works!

    By Blogger Balou, at 10:14 AM  

  • Screw that. I'm going to bitch and rant just as much as before and maybe doubkle for everyone else cutting back. LOL

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 11:39 AM  

  • How on earth could I relieve the stress of my current living situation if I couldn't complain?

    I'd explode.

    But then again, sometimes talking about it does make my blood pressure rise all over again...

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 5:33 PM  

  • eh, I don't know what I think. I think people should quit complaining to important people thinking that they'll make a difference when instead they're just being petty and using up time that could be spent doing useful things...but if I have a problem I'll vent to my boyfriend or my friends. It keeps me sane. I don't complain to the source when I know I'm being demanding and petty, but I can't get over the feeling of wanting *someone* to know that I have a problem with such-and-such a thing.

    By Blogger hyacinths and biscuits, at 9:31 PM  

  • I sometimes start a conversation with my husband by saying, "You know how I hate to complain, but..." It always gets a laugh. If we never complained about anything we'd still be living in caves wearing animal skins.

    By Blogger wordsonwater, at 4:33 AM  

  • Complaining. The word sounds so ineffectual and trite. It sounds like something you do when you don't have the ability or will to change your circumstances--oh right, that's exactly what it is. People who have power to change their situation don't complain--they express doubts or discuss possible options to acheive their goal. Their shared goal is not to get mad and whine--the goal is always to get even or ahead.

    So I say take it one step further--not just not complain for 23 days, but actually perform one positive act per day that cures or works toward curing the problems you have. Just one. It doesn't take much.

    That house repair job you've been nagging your hubby about--don't say another word and just take twenty from his wallet every week and get the job done after a couple of months. Who cares if he complains--you get your job done (and probably done right).
    That meal she never cooks or gets right--go in her purse, get some cash and go eat it at your favorite restaurant alone. Don't get mad--get even or ahead.

    I however, do have a theory about who complains most and why which will be very unpopular here and elsewhere. My theory is women like to complain much more than men because it is part of their cultural and genetic socialization throught the history of humanity. The theory goes that women, based on their evolution in hunter-gatherer society, agrarian society and now in industrial society, have been placed outside of the field of endeavor and have honed the only weapon they could use to get what they want against men. They could fight physically, but that would leave many wounded; they could appeal to goodwill, but altruism is defined more by locally available bounty than by human nature. Women therefore use complaints to both interact and communicate with each other in a way that is bonding and collaborative. Men use silent nods, looks and grunts to communicate without scaring away prey. That's why talking incessantly about a problem is called feminine; taking steps to solve it, whether those steps are right or wrong is considered masculine.

    Jeezix, Skeezix, why do you think they call it bitching???!!?

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 1:29 PM  

  • Looks like students at the University of Miami could use that example set by our local minister! Caught my son looking at this and laughing. The videos of UM students complaining tickled my fancy.

    anyhow, love the blog Mr. Burnett!

    By Anonymous Doree, at 12:52 PM  

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