It’s a simple, yet profound message.
Pope Francis has earned a lot of love and criticism for taking the Catholic Church in a bold, new, progressive direction. He has spoken out about climate change, the gender pay gap, inequality in capitalist societies, and even endorsed gay marriage. But last week, he made a move that was downright old school. He hung a sign outside of his office at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican that says “no whiners” in Italian.
The sign was given to Pope Francis along with a book and bracelet by psychotherapist Salvo Noé at the end of a hearing in St. Peter’s Square. The pope graciously accepted the sign saying, “I will put it outside my office door where I receive people.” The sign also states that those who violate its dictates are “subject to a syndrome of always feeling like a victim and the consequent reduction of your sense of humor and capacity to solve problems.” And that the “sanction is doubled if the offense is committed in the presence of children.”
In true Pope Francis style, the sign ends on a positive, empowering note. “To get the best out of yourself, concentrate on your potential and not on your limitations,” the sign reads. “Stop complaining and take steps to improve your life.” According to psychologists, the pope is sending the right message. When we have new thoughts, the connections created by our synapses make it easier to have those same thoughts in the future. Therefore, negative thoughts beget more negative thoughts and can increase the amount of complaints that naturally pop up on our internal monologues.
Complaining is also bad for those around us. Our brains tend to mirror the emotional states of people we interact with. When we’re around complainers, it will eventually cause us to think negative thoughts as well. Finally, according to writer Stephen Parton, negative thoughts weaken the immune system, raise blood pressure, and increase the risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. So if you want to be happy, keep the complaining to a minimum, especially if you’re hanging out with the pope — he doesn’t want to hear it.