This Thursday is the day when we’re supposed to stop what we’re doing and give thanks. We mention more things in our Thanksgiving Feast blessing. Some of us go around the table and express our appreciation for a specific blessing. And I love this idea of having gratitude.
But, like charity, gratitude needs to be more than something we do on occasion; it needs to become something we are. It needs to weave its way into our DNA, and become a self-defining trait of our own.
We all know people who like to complain (though few of us think we fall into that category). We all know people who are critical (though some re-label it perfectionism). Most of us fall into this unhappy mindset because we absorb the attitudes in our homes as we grow up. If our parents were always grumbling about something, we pick up that stance. It becomes second-nature to us, so common that we don’t even notice ourselves thinking, “Why would she say that?” or “Nice driving,” or “Of course I get in the slowest supermarket line” or “This is boring” or “Typical!” or “Seriously?” or “I have nothing to wear” or on and on and on.
It takes concentration and effort to undo years of habit, but in this case, the rewards are astounding—the very peace and happiness you pray for and wait for—can be the result of re-framing your outlook. In fact, a negative outlook can be an obstacle to the very joy God wants to give you—if only you’d let him. It’s sort of like praying to be healthy while you’re eating a donut; you’re blocking the blessing!
So if you’re serious about feeling contentment and happiness in this life, you must do your part. You—and I—need to turn off the whine spigot. Here’s an exercise for us to do, one day at a time or even one hour at a time: Pay close attention to your thoughts and the things you say, and every time you utter a negative one, stop and see the blessing. Here are some examples:
“Why is this computer so slow?” can become amazement that we even have computers. Imagine—it has to bounce a signal into outer space! And back again! Thirty years ago you’d have been astounded that this could even happen.
“The service here is terrible—we’ve been waiting for our food for ten minutes” can become gratitude that you can afford to eat out, and you live where there’s that opportunity.
“Of course my skin breaks out on the day I’m going to Sarah’s party” can become a reminder that you have friends, and a party to attend. So many in this world are lonely and have never gone to a party in their entire life.
“I can’t believe the bakery was out of Asiago bread.” You even know what that is.
“The stupid dishwasher isn’t working right.” But you have one.
“Hospital food is awful.” But you’re getting medical care.
There are internet jokes about people who complain about “First World Problems”:
There’s no Uber here?
I can’t find the remote.
I ate so much I can’t sleep.
This apple is too big for my apple slicer.
I just closed my Sub-Zero fridge door, and now it won’t open for 20 seconds.
My Android phone won’t fit in my pocket.
I have to take out the first CD to get to the second CD.
My square Fiji water bottle won’t fit my Porsche’s round cup holder.
I have to miss my favorite band’s concert because I’ll be in Hawaii.
These are good reminders to be grateful for the things we so quickly take for granted. This Thanksgiving, give yourself a grateful heart—and then keep it all year.
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.