"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
July 11, 2012
Walking the Grateful Path -- One Day at a Time
by Kathryn Grant

Driving to work the other day I was listening to KLOVE, one of my favorite Christian radio stations. By coincidence -- or maybe not -- the DJ shared this experience.

Her kids had gone to visit their dad, so she and some other single moms got together for some much-needed R&R. Understandably, the conversation turned to the challenges they faced as single parents, their concerns about the future, and so forth.

But suddenly she realized what they were doing. They were spending this rare free time, this break they'd all looked forward to, complaining and worrying! She made the choice to turn away from complaining and enjoy the wonderful gift of a day to relax with her friends.

Her experience tied in perfectly with the challenge in the last column to avoid complaining, just for a day. This challenge seemed to resonate with many readers. One observed:

When we are focused on other people's needs and building relationships, our life becomes meaningful. We become less prone to criticism and complaint; we find joy in being of service to others. One side benefit is that our own concerns become manageable; our capacity to solve our own problems increases.

Another reader expressed it this way: "I believe you are right. We are so used to complaining that we even find ourselves complaining about our blessings. Ouch!"

One woman shared this experience: "Once I wanted to help a friend who was facing some severe challenges. Without telling her or anyone else, I was able to take steps that helped to solve one of her problems significantly. I am sure she appreciated it, but it was interesting to see how she kept complaining about the other challenges in her life! I felt a little disheartened, but then I realized that I had probably been doing the same thing with Heavenly Father. How many gifts had He given me 'anonymously' that I didn't really appreciate, as evidenced by my negative outlook?"

In my own experience, complaining has never brought me happiness. It has never drawn me closer to the Lord or other people. It doesn't lead me toward solutions, but instead seems to keep me stuck in the very problems I claim to hate.

On my wall at work is a plaque I made with these words, adapted from Deuteronomy 28:47: "Serve the Lord thy God with joyfulness and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things." There's a story behind it. At a time of discouragement in my life, and yes, complaint, I read the Lord's words in chapter 28.

He's telling the children of Israel, in essence, that they have a choice: they can follow the Lord's guidance and receive abundant blessings, or they can insist on doing things their own way, and get themselves in a pile of trouble. Verse 47 seems to sum up the underlying reason: troubles would come upon Israel if they "[served] not the Lord ... with joyfulness and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things." (It's intriguing that willfulness and complaint often go hand in hand.)

Talk about a wake-up call! I decided I didn't want to miss out on blessings the Lord wanted to give me because I chose to complain instead of serving him with a grateful heart. So I reframed verse 47 positively as a reminder about the importance of replacing complaint with gratitude.

My hope is that we can continue walking the grateful path -- one day at a time.

Speaking of one day at a time, several readers wrote to say that they found encouragement in the attainable goal approach. One said, "I read the article several times, and finally printed it out for my own benefit. Reading it daily helps me look for goals that are attainable for the day."

Another reader observed in the forums:

I love this idea. I had a Weight Watchers leader who made everybody repeat at the end of a session the following affirmation: "I can do this one more day. I can do this seven more days. Because I'm worth it."

There have been so many things in life that I have had to look at in the moment and say, "I can do this one more day." I don't have to focus on trying to do [insert hard thing] for a whole week, month, year, eternity. Instead I can focus on getting through today, through this moment.

As a fitting conclusion, the same reader shared this quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley:

I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity. Please don't nag yourself with thoughts of failure. Do not set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. Simply do what you can do, in the best way you know, and the Lord will accept of your effort. (Rise to the Stature of the Divine Within You)

Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts and insights. In the next column there will be a new "just for a day" challenge, so stay tuned!

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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