First thing this morning when I saw my 7th grade son, he didn’t give me his usual good morning hug. Instead he looked at me with disdain and asked me why I didn’t bring his shirts upstairs to his bedroom like he had asked after I washed and hung them to dry. Excuse me? Don’t you mean “thank you mom for washing my clothes”? He tried to argue with me and I told him he wasn’t going to win this one and moved on. It left me feeling grumbly.
Last night in our small group Bible study on Ephesians, a dear friend said her husband brought her coffee every morning while she was in the shower. She didn’t say it to brag, but to complain – that he should be showing love by doing the hard sacrificial things, not easy, routine things, and learning her ‘love language’. Excuse me? Don’t you mean “thank you honey for bringing me coffee morning after morning”? Thank you for loving me regardless of which ‘love language’ you choose?
Hearing others grumbling stirred up critical feelings toward them, but as I was pointing, this time I saw the three fingers pointing back at myself. How often I catch my own self feeling entitled to something or expecting a behavior from someone that doesn’t line up with reality and leaves me feeling grumbly?
Grumbling and criticizing is a heart attitude that develops when things in life don’t unfold to our liking. It begins with how we interpret the facts. We have the power to choose our interpretation. We can choose the path that makes us passive victims of people’s remarks or of random incidents. Or we could choose the path of gratitude.
Gratitude isn’t about psyching ourselves up to have a good attitude. Choosing gratitude must flow from God, our reliable source. In fact, He desires for us to be able to live feeling thankful in any and every circumstance. He has to tell us to do this because thankfulness doesn’t come naturally.
Henri Nouwen believes that gratitude is a difficult spiritual discipline to constantly practice. “It is hard precisely because it challenges me to face my painful moments – experiences of rejection and abandonment, feelings of loss and failure – and gradually to discover in them the pruning hands of God purifying my heart for deeper love, stronger hope, and broader faith.”
Adele Calhoun beautifully describes thankfulness as a thread that combines together all the patchwork squares of our lives. It is a discipline to choose to stitch our days together with the thread of gratitude.
Gratitude not only squelches grumbling, but it annihilates the critical spirit, at least temporarily for as long as we are upstage the critical spirit by practicing gratitude.