There I was, trying to have a nice date in the temple with my husband and I couldn’t get the negative thoughts out of my mind. They were literally eating at me. Old grudges, rehashing thoughtless comments made to me, being angry about an eye roll here and a jab at my family there. As I was trying to escape from the cycle of anger, the man in the temple prayed “We thank thee that we are alive. . . ” And like one of those giant sweeping panoramic views that zoom in quickly on one tiny flower, my life came into focus. I am ALIVE. I have a healthy body. I enjoy my family so much, and they are alive and healthy. We have running water. We have indoor plumbing. Washing machine. Dishwasher. I can read and write. I have hope and faith in my future and in the present.
A window was suddenly thrown open to dispel all of the dust and darkness in a long-shuttered room. What a glorious relief to see things clearly and see that, on the whole, I am just about the most blessed and lucky person in the world. Really. So if I have one or two bad interactions with people, or my toaster breaks, or even if my house gets broken into–hey, I have a house. And probably insurance to cover the loss. Buying a new toaster won’t break the bank.
For the remainder of that week, those intrusive thoughts kept trying to elbow their way into my mind and steal all of my energy. And every time I started feeling angry and resentful, I just grabbed hold of some gratitude. I have a wonderful, loyal husband. My children trust me. My brothers and sisters are amazing. And the bad thoughts were flushed out. The amazing thing was, the intrusive thoughts became less and less frequent, and now I don’t even have them at all. And that is significant. They have been a part of my life for a couple of years. But gratitude eradicated them. It is magic.
My son comes up to me at 5:00 every evening and asks me what we are having for dinner and then starts complaining and worrying because it isn’t tortillas every night. He makes himself nervous and upset and he carries it with him all the way through dinner. I finally get fed up and slam his plate on the table and say “Why can’t you just be grateful that you are never hungry. I don’t make yucky food. Just be grateful that you get some.” And he eats it and smiles sheepishly through his teary eyes that “it’s good”. Every night he wastes all of that energy on being unhappy because things aren’t exactly like he thinks they should be. Heavenly Father probably feels just the same way. He commands us to be grateful in all things, not just to give Him credit for His unending mercy, but also because gratitude makes us happy. It helps us focus on what we have and we don’t worry about what we lack. Gratitude is the opposite of coveting.
We can get so consumed with our own little problems that we miss out on the blessings surrounding us on every side. I wonder if that is why places like Ghana and Bhutan are happier than we are, generally. They don’t have the big things, so they can be grateful for every. little. thing. And it makes them happy. Maybe we are just spoiled rotten.
So think of that problem: someone hurt your feelings, your basement flooded, your mother in law, your boss, your bishop, your spouse. . .