Get out of the habit of complaining.

Uncle: As a child I collected coins. I aimed to get a complete set. I also hunted for coins minted incorrectly, so I become good at finding abnormal coins. With a glance I could pluck from a pile of coins one that was a little different. Mostly, they were coins damaged from day-to-day use, but I did find two mis-minted coins.

Nephew: So that’s what you did with your childhood? That explains a few things.

Uncle: I looked for faults in coins and became good at finding them. Does that mean anything to you?

Nephew: Your youth was wasted?

Uncle: It’s the same with life. If someone looks for faults in life, they will get good at finding them. They will find themselves in a world constantly faulty. They will find faults with grammar, with people, with life . . .

Nephew: . . . with uncles who love to give unsolicited advice?

Uncle: What?

Nephew: Do you still have your coin collection?

Uncle: Complainers can at times appear perceptive, but they are a drag to be with. Worse, they dishearten themselves by living in what they perceive to be a universally defective world.

Nephew: I know what you’re trying to say. Like picking our nose in public, complaining is not something we want to be good at.

Uncle: . . . That’s right. If you are a complainer, get out of the habit. Every time you find yourself complaining ask yourself, ‘Do I need to complain? Will I end up feeling better, or worse?’ It’s a split-second thing, and if the answer is not ‘better’, retract the complaint.

Nephew: The old ‘retract’ trick?

Uncle: Yes. When we are adept at retracting our complaints we get out of the habit of complaining. After all, there is no enjoyment in complaining if we have the tedious task of retracting it immediately afterwards.

Nephew: When is it okay to complain?

Uncle: When change is necessary. Or, when you want to discharge the hurt you feel. Complaining to someone you trust can be cathartic. As the proverb goes, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’

Nephew: You can be so corny.

Uncle: I thought that might be the case. By the way, when change is required and you do complain to someone, be tactful. Be considerate. Before you say anything, see the problem from their point of view.

Nephew: You mean, I should make a production out of it?

Uncle: Yes. No. My main point is: don’t go looking for things to complain about. Get out of the habit of making idle complaints like, ‘Gosh, it has been raining for days.’ Or, ‘Those birds keep defecating on my car.’

Nephew: Or, ‘The date changes every bloody day!’

Uncle: Er . . . yes.

Nephew: All this from a coin collection?

Uncle: Just get out of the habit of complaining. Become poor at finding fault. When we do, we see far fewer faults in people, and in life. We might even find that our powers of insight turn towards finding strengths in people. Can you imagine how uplifting that would be? For ourselves and for the other person?

Nephew: Now you’re pushing it.

Uncle: Most importantly, we become easygoing. So that when something unwanted does happen in life, we’re not fazed. We can handle it.

Nephew: There it is! That old chestnut, resilience. But you still haven’t told me the important bit.

Uncle: What’s that?

Nephew: Do you still have your coin collection?

Uncle: No.

Nephew: Then what was the point of this conversation?

Uncle: (Sigh)

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