If a climb discouraged the butterfly, she would never be high enough to catch the breeze.


In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

I always thought it would be strange to give thanks in all circumstances. If I’m having a bad day, and someone asks, “How are you today?” am I supposed to dig around for some reason to be grateful

“So glad I haven’t been snatched by aliens yet!”

Whenever I imagined it, it seemed fake. It seemed dishonest. But, as usual, there’s more to it.


There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet

As human beings, we have the unique opportunity to control our attitudes. This is something that parents labor every generation to teach their children. We, as thinking, rational beings, have a responsibility to correctly weigh the facts. Because the weight we give those facts affects our vision of the world, our lives, and ourselves.

Ever since high school, sleep has been important to me. Suddenly I had more demands upon my time. Waking moments became more precious, so sleeping moments were precious, too.

That’s fine. Sleep really is important. But it began to take over my life.

The problem of sleep

When anyone asked, “How are you today?” I would answer with some fact about my most recent sleep. “I slept really well last night, so I’m great!” or “Well, it took me forever to fall asleep last night! Yeah, I’m feeling pretty slow this morning.”

It seemed natural at the time. I needed something to be my regular go-to topic when people ask how I’m doing. Sleep was important, and an easy thing to talk about. What’s wrong with that?

When I laid it out for myself, however, I saw a problem. Not only was I using the state of my sleep as a gauge for my happiness or sadness. I was allowing my thoughts about my sleep to become the cause of whether I was happy or sad.

That’s actually kind of funny. I started to feel like a Charles Dickens character, always talking about one thing, as if it was the most important in the world. I have a wonderful life, and I was letting sleep–something I can’t control–determine my attitude.


So where does that leave us with complaining? Aren’t there times when the bad really does outweigh the good? Although our experiences indicate yes, Saints throughout the ages have questioned that assessment. St. Paul, for example. And he didn’t have it easy.

We truly admire those who do not complain in difficult circumstances. It shows an extraordinary strength of character. It belongs only to those who, simply by determination, make their difficulties better. They truly find something to be thankful for.

So refraining from complaining is not lying or pretending. It’s defending the truth that bad is not as important as good. Perhaps bad things are happening, but if we work to have the right attitude, we will see that, in most cases, the good far outweighs the bad. And thanksgiving should outweigh the complaining.

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