"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
February 18, 2015
One Secret of Seeing Clearly
by Kathryn Grant

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you hear something from the waking world, but you remain asleep and the thing you hear becomes part of your dream?

One morning I was still weary when my alarm went off, and it didn’t wake me up. Instead, in my dream, I became aware of an annoying buzzing sound. I went through my house (still in my dream), trying to locate the source of the sound and stop it.

I tried turning off the dream alarm clock. That didn’t work, so I tried various other things, even fiddling with the dream oven, thinking maybe the timer was the source of the buzzing (even though the timer in real life didn’t sound anything like the buzzing in my dream — thank goodness!).

But nothing worked, and to my increasing frustration the noise kept going and going and going. It wasn’t until I finally awakened that I was able to turn off the real alarm clock and stop the sound.

I’ve reflected on this dream multiple times since having it, because it seems like such an apt metaphor for life. Sometimes we see things so unclearly that it’s as if we’re asleep. And in that state we try all kinds of solutions, but none of them works. And none of them can work until we awake from our unreal world and return to the real one.

For example, we may think we have a clear understanding of someone or something in our lives — a disrespectful child or an annoying neighbor or an unfair situation at work. And from that perspective, we try all kinds of solutions. When none works, we become even more frustrated and may even slip into a mindset of helplessness and victimhood.

“I can’t wait until my daughter moves out!” or “There will never be any peace around here as long as Joe is my neighbor,” or “I won’t ever get the assignment I’m qualified for as long as Jane is the manager.” “After all,” we tell ourselves, “I’ve tried everything and nothing works.”

Getting out of the unreal world can be tricky, but there is one surprising approach that almost always works. It is seeing the person or situation with gratitude.

Becky (not her real name) was devastated when she discovered that her teenage daughter had been lying to her. This daughter claimed to have put some harmful behaviors behind her, when in reality she was still involved behind her mother’s back. After discovering her daughter’s deception, Becky was near the end of her rope, hurt and hopeless.

But a friend suggested that she take the courageous step of being grateful — not only for the situation, but for her daughter exactly as she was. For Becky, the effect was almost instantaneous: the situation hadn’t changed, but she was seeing things more clearly. She saw the truth about her daughter and her choices, and she saw herself and her emotions with greater clarity.

She became aware of new possibilities and new solutions. The feeling of being a victim of other people and circumstances was replaced by a feeling of faith.

Becky’s experience isn’t unique. Why is that? Well, if gratitude and faith aren’t exactly synonymous, they are closely linked. Being grateful for people and circumstances in our lives, even challenging ones, implies gratitude to someone. And if we think about it carefully, we realize that this gratitude goes to the Lord.

When we are grateful, we essentially acknowledge His power and love operating in our lives, with all people and in all situations, positive or apparently otherwise. We acknowledge that He has a plan for our lives as He invites us to come unto Christ, even (or especially) through the things we endure.

In other words, thankfulness in all things (Ephesians 5:20, D&C 59:7) is an expression of our faith in the Lord. When we are grateful, we come closer to seeing “things as they really are” (Jacob 4:13) — we see them more as He does. This perspective is not only the most truthful, but the most hopeful.

If you’re dealing with a relationship or situation that has left you hurt and hopeless, try taking the courageous step of being grateful for those very things. Like Becky and many others, you may also find that gratitude is the secret that helps you see more clearly.

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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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