It’s the year 2021? That’s difficult to fathom. Doesn’t that sound like science fiction to you? It wasn’t too long ago when it was Y2K and we were all huddled down in our storm shelters with our water jugs, RME’s, generators, flashlights, canned food, our Kings James Version Bibles and we were afraid our computers were going to shut the world down and send us back to the Dark Ages.
None of that happened and then you blink and it’s 2021.
The more New Year’s Days that go by the more we realize how fast life really gets.
Around the start of a new year I have the same cycle that happens: I start evaluating myself. I evaluate where I’m at and where I want to go, who I want to strive to be. I make a list of goals and initiatives for the upcoming year, inviting others to encourage me and hold me accountable. This process is referred to as resolutions.
Some are tangible goals that are tracked rigorously and some are intangible goals and are sought after through accountability.
A tangible goal: I will exercise 4 days a week in 2021.
An intangible goal: I will become more of a patient person in 2021.
New Year’s resolutions can be divided into two categories. On one side we say, Here are the things I need to start doing: I need to start eating better. I need to start going to the gym. I need to start managing my money wisely. I need to start getting to church consistently.
In the other category are things that we need to stop doing. I’m going to stop eating dessert so much. I’m going to stop speeding on the highway. I’m going to stop cussing. I’m going to stop drinking so much. I’m going to stop being so obsessed with politics.
We have both categories: things we will start this new year and things we will stop this new year.
Most are aware of the spectacle of the New Year’s Eve celebration on Times Square in NYC, when the ball drops at midnight and you kiss on the lips the person nearest to you.
I’ve attended the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration. While it was fun to be there and meet so many people from around the world, it wasn’t the most enjoyable fun arriving at 4:00PM for a spot, not able to leave for 8 hours, having to urinate in a gatorade bottle in front of thousands of onlookers while it’s freezing outside. And once the ball drops, everyone scatters and runs like a zombie apocalypse started on 42nd Street.
There is a lesser known day that occurs in Times Square of New York City a few days before New Year’s Eve every year. It’s a Latin American-inspired day called: Good Riddance Day.
The idea behind, Good Riddance Day is you are to take all of the letdowns of the year – the stress and pain and the unmet expectations – and you bring them to Times Square to get rid of them and clean the slate heading into the new year with a fresh mind and a renewed heart.
You show up at Times Square in late December, you receive a black Sharpie market and a piece of paper that has words printed on it saying: I’d like to say good riddance to……..and there’s a blank space after for you to finish the sentence.
You can put a photo there of a former job you no longer have. You can put an old credit card statement there that has been paid off. You can write something in, like, I’d like to say good riddance to rooting for the Detroit Lions.
Thousands of people attend this Good Riddance Day. They take their year-long, sometimes life-long regret up to a large industrialized paper shredder and they let go of the paper and shred it and the surrounding people cheer and clap. It’s a symbolic way of saying, This is what I’m letting go of, this is what I’m getting rid of before the New Year.
One year I attended Good Riddance Day. It was a fairly new event then and I was very nosy. I kept looking at other people’s paper because I can be rude and intrusive like that, in a curious, insensitive way. One lady next to me was crying so I asked her what she wrote on her paper and she held it up to me in tears and it was the name of a guy.
She said, This is the name of an old boyfriend of mine and we broke up two years ago but I can’t fully get over him and I can’t stop thinking about him and I can’t stop looking online at what his new life looks like so I’m going to shred his name today and move forward.
I’m thinking, You haven’t been able to get over this guy for two years after you broke up, do you really think writing his name down on paper and shredding it is going to be deep enough to heal you?
I didn’t tell her that. I just hugged her and asked if I could pray with her. She said, No thanks. I’m an atheist. She was very polite about rejecting my offer. She chose the paper shredder instead to help heal her.
As good-intentioned and therapeutic as an exercise like Good Riddance Day can be, I just don’t think it goes deep enough. It doesn’t get to the root of helping what we need to let go of.
I’ve got many tangible goals for this year of things I need to start doing more of. I’m going to run this many miles. I’m going to read this many books. I’m going to go on this many date nights and daddy-daughter dates.
But I’m also going to stop doing something. And it’s just one thing. I’m stopping cold turkey. I’m not going to do it ever again and I’m asking my family and closest friends to hold me accountable.
I’m going to stop complaining.
It’s over. I’m done being a chain-grumbler. The pre-ghost-of-Christmas-yet-to-come Ebenezar Scrooge and the Grinch-like heart I’ve had for far too long is dying and a perpetual grateful heart begins in 2021.
It feels most days I ask my daughters to stop whining without holding myself accountable to the innumerable amount of complaints I commit. From facile complaints like wifi being too slow or food not tasting great to more serious complaints of life not going the way I think it should, I’ve been addicted to grumbling.
If you love Jesus you need to know complaining is a sin. It’s offensive to God.
Do everything without complaining. (Philippians 2:14)
There’s no clarifier or asterisk. It’s not, Do everything without complaining, unless you’re tired. Unless you’re getting a divorce. Unless you’ve lost your job. Unless your metabolism is low. Unless your car breaks down a lot. Unless you’re in a pandemic. Unless. Unless. Unless.
Do E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G without complaining. (Philippians 2:14)
Do you complain?
Of course you do.
I’m not talking about little complaints here and there. I’m talking about trending complaints. What are the things you keep complaining about? If you don’t know, your spouse/closest friend/co-worker/child is dying to tell you what you continue to complain about.
Complaints usually rise up out of unmet expectations. The weather is awful. That’s because your expectation is for San Diego weather. The traffic is horrific. That’s because your expectation is to get to where you were going smoothly. The government is wicked. That’s because your expectation is to have a Congress and Oval Office full of the Holy Spirit when in reality they are just full of themselves.
Pay attention to your trending complaints – in you and in those under your roof. Get it out of your heart. Get it out of your home. The more you complain, the less you’ll be grateful, the less you’ll trust God and the smaller of a legacy you will have.
Psychology 101 is when you stop doing something you must replace it by starting something. If you want to stop smoking, replace it by starting to exercise. If you want to stop watching so much TV, replace that time by reading or journaling.
We must stop complaining. It leads to no where beneficial and keeps us treading in our negative, self-pity pool of water we choose to waddle in. If we stop complaining, what do we replace our thoughts/attitudes/words with?
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Do everything without complaining and instead be thankful in all circumstances. The verse above says that this is God’s will for you life.
Those who want to make a difference think of extravagant things like starting an orphanage in Africa or a non-profit to help the needy in America or writing a book. They want to make a difference where so many people notice.
How about we make a difference so our God notices? And for that to happen, I’m going cold turkey on not complaining and I’m going to replace it by being thankful.
How radical would it be for me to be thankful for traffic? Then I get to pray or process my day or think about my family. How radical would it be for me to be thankful for slow wifi? Then I get to be thankful for the life God has given me where I get to have wifi in my warm house with my warm clothes on while drinking my warm coffee. I have a great life.
I know friends who are thankful they have cancer because it has forced them to not take any day for granted with their loved ones, to love people more than possessions.
I invite you to join me. No more complaining. Let’s leave our pre-school mindset and venture into spiritual maturity. Be thankful for all you have, the good and the bad. Let’s lovingly hold our family and friends to the standard of no whining as well. We’re better than emulating Mr. Potter (Not Harry, the guy in It’s a Wonderful Life). Let’s emulate Jesus, who said a lot of words that are recorded, not one of which is a complaint.
Thanks for reading. Happy New Year. 2021 is going to rock.