What if each time we started to complain we looked for something to be thankful about, and verbalized that thought instead?
It’s very easy to become cloaked in negativity. The quality is common in society—even celebrated at times—and it can be corrosive. If negativity lingers nearby and you’re not intentional about confronting or eliminating it, it can creep in and muck up your attitude and outlook. It spreads readily and quickly.
One of many antidotes to negativity is gratitude; not surprisingly, I’ve known people to keep gratitude journals. More recently I’ve noticed Facebook gratitude posts in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, and noted a few church signs promoting an “attitude of gratitude.”
What if we took this fairly mainstream activity of looking for things to be thankful for and kicked up its frequency and maybe even its fun? That would mean acknowledging blessings beyond “the roof over my head” or “a car that runs.” Yes these are great examples of things to be thankful for—things most of us rely on and sometimes even take for granted (at least I find myself doing so). But for this exercise, the activity of turning your attention and your attitude toward something you’re grateful for is the goal. Distract yourself from the thing you’re scowling about and look for an even more obscure blessing, something you won’t say with rote “Yeah, I know I should be thankful for this.” These can range from the serious to the humorous. For example:
“I’m incredibly grateful somebody invented the toothbrush. Thank heavens.”
“That sunrise? Wow, incredible, God. Without it I’d be fumbling around in the dark and, besides, it was gorgeous.”
“Wow, thankful there’s a glass pane between me and that turkey vulture sitting on the window ledge. That could get ugly.”
“Sure, it’s been raining for three days. What if cicadas had been falling from the sky instead?! Yes, rain, rain is good.”
While you might be the only one to find the little quip you invented meaningful (or funny), the attitude of turning away from the gripe/complaint/festering issue and finding something to be thankful for—could be a good exercise.
I acknowledge that, yes, venting has its purpose and its place, but pay close attention to who you choose as your audience, their response, and your overall attitude after sharing. Also recognize that if you find yourself harboring the same complaints over and over and over again—it might be time to examine what action you could pursue to change your situation. That action might simply be seeking advice or counsel, or taking a season to be deliberate about figuring out what might help you replace that recurring complaint with expressions of joy or, simply, positivity. On the other hand, you might even realize the right course is trimming the complaint’s cause from your life altogether.
But back to my original goal: to remind you (and me!) to be looking around at the countless things we have to be thankful for, even when we’re in the midst of the rough patches.
“Give thanks in all circumstances…” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV
What if we did that?