The entire family is coming to town for Thanksgiving. All of the kids, (except our missionary,) the granddaughter, cousins, aunts uncles – almost everybody – and we couldn’t be happier about it. Living in Arizona in November is glorious. Our tradition is to eat our Thanksgiving feast outside and enjoy the gorgeous weather.
But then I see this:
Are you kidding me? Who wants to overeat outside in 90-degree weather? Not me! Now we have to improvise, figure out how to seat everyone indoors, and blow up our tradition. Grrr-umble.
Did you notice that? Or are you just enjoying my misery?
You see, I have an irony detector in my head. It works better when I listen to other people, and more slowly when self-analyzing. In this instance, the irony is thicker and richer than 2nd-day turkey gravy.
The irony? Complaining…about Thanksgiving.
During the run-up to Thanksgiving, we have an opportunity to focus on being more grateful, and to count our blessings. I love the family tradition of going around the table and talking about what we are grateful for. I enjoy writing about gratitude, and one year I even knocked out a list of 100 things I’m thankful for -and it merely scraped the surface. However, like most holidays, Thanksgiving can also be a time of grousing, grumbling and noticing things to complain about.
• The turkey is dry.
• There’s not enough pie.
• This sure is a lot of work for a 20 minute meal.
• Guess who is late….again?
• It’s too hot/cold/wet/dry/windy/snowy/early/late. (Pick one or more.)
• We drove 12 hours to be here for 2 days and then. we have to drive all the way back.
• The airport/TSA/airline is incompetent.
• How are we ever going to keep both sets of parents happy?
• Insert any political commentary here.
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
There is always stuff to complain about. It takes very little effort, and very little skilled observation to find something – anything – that might merit a complaint. Being critical and negative is easy.
As I was thinking through my own grumbliness, a very specific thought came into my mind. I’m glad I have somewhere to write it down, because I don’t embroider pillowcases.
Complaining is the voice of ingratitude – the bad breath of the ungrateful heart – willing to be shared with anyone who happens to be within range. And boy, are we willing to share it.
We are quick to share our ungratefulness with friends, family, God, and complete strangers. We also complain to ourselves about whatever thing might be setting us off at any given moment. Sadly, often one of the main targets of our vitriol is…ourselves. Yeah, we can be pretty hard on ourselves, and we aren’t afraid to let ourselves hear it, or at least think it.
Much as faith cannot coexist with fear, I can’t envision a scenario where complaining and being grateful can co-exist. One of the best scriptural attempts I have found is in D&C 121-122. Joesph Smith, captive in Liberty Jail, offers what could be considered a list of grievances, and was put quickly in his place by the Lord.
Simply put, if I am complaining about an issue – real or imagined – I am not focused on being grateful. As the Lord has said, we should receive “all things with thankfulness.” (D&C 78:19) Even the bad stuff.
Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to focus on upping our gratitude levels – which to me is truly fitting, before we embark on the next holiday cycle where we focus on the Savior. (Granted, many people just skip right by the gratitude part and head right to Christmas, but I’m not complaining.)
This week, I am going to try and focus on my gratitude, but I am also going to try and be aware of how much I am complaining. I know I do it. I would like to prove my gratitude by not giving voice to my ingratitude – whether inside my head, or aloud. I expect it will be eye-opening, and perhaps a bit humbling.
Yes, it does sounds tough. Really tough. I probably start each day with some sort of “I’m tired” complaint, and it escalates from there. Complaining is commonplace, and common. For some, it has evolved into a lifestyle. Yet when we adopt a complainer’s voice, we minimize our gratitude to God and everyone else we come in contact with – including ourselves.
In my opening I mentioned that the family is coming home for Thanksgiving, and I found myself complaining about the weather – because that is exactly what happened.
Think about that.
As you are deciding if you are courageous enough to wage a holiday war against your instinct to complain for the week, here are some quotes and thoughts about the subject:
“And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.” (D&C 78:19; italics added.)
“We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.” (President Thomas Monson)
“If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out… Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”
― Randy Pausch,
“I knew a faithful mother who humbled herself and asked, “What is keeping me from progressing?” In her case, the response from the Spirit came immediately: “Stop complaining.” This answer surprised her; she had never thought of herself as a complainer. However, the message from the Holy Ghost was very clear. In the days that followed, she became conscious of her habit of complaining. Grateful for the prompting to improve, she determined to count her blessings instead of her challenges. Within days, she felt the warm approval of the Spirit.” (Elder Larry R. Lawrence)
“In all of this, I suppose it goes without saying that negative speaking so often flows from negative thinking, including negative thinking about ourselves. We see our own faults, we speak—or at least think—critically of ourselves, and before long that is how we see everyone and everything. No sunshine, no roses, no promise of hope or happiness. Before long we and everybody around us are miserable.
I love what Elder Orson F. Whitney once said: “The spirit of the gospel is optimistic; it trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things. The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down and away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs, complains, and is slow to yield obedience.” We should honor the Savior’s declaration to “be of good cheer.” (Indeed, it seems to me we may be more guilty of breaking that commandment than almost any other!) Speak hopefully. Speak encouragingly, including about yourself. Try not to complain and moan incessantly. As someone once said, “Even in the golden age of civilization someone undoubtedly grumbled that everything looked too yellow.”
I have often thought that Nephi’s being bound with cords and beaten by rods must have been more tolerable to him than listening to Laman and Lemuel’s constant murmuring. Surely he must have said at least once, “Hit me one more time. I can still hear you.” Yes, life has its problems, and yes, there are negative things to face, but please accept one of Elder Holland’s maxims for living—no misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse.” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland)
And finally, this whole talk by President Monson. “Live in Thanksgiving Daily.“
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!