Several years ago I heard about a woman and her adult daughter who went shopping together. For some reason, the mother was not in a good mood and complained the entire time they were out. After trying on some shoes at a shoe store they left without buying anything. The daughter asked her mother why she didn’t buy a pair of shoes that she obviously liked. The mother said, “I didn’t like the face that salesmen gave me!” Her daughter responded, “Oh Mother, you had that face when you went in.”
Over the years I’ve met people who seemed to be mad at life. Their face is in a continuous frown, and they complain about everything. it seems that no matter what good things life brings them, they are determined to be miserable. That’s a tough way to go through life.
None of us can choose the things that happens to us, but we can always choose our response to them. No one expresses this better than Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy.
Frankl survived the German death camps in World War II. In his book he describes the horrible things the prisoners experienced in the camps, the living conditions, the working conditions, the brutality that drove many to commit suicide, but he noticed something that would forever change his life once he was released. He learned the power of choice.
He wrote, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
I’m not saying these men were able to choose happiness in the horrible circumstances in which they lived. I am saying they were able to choose to not allow these circumstances destroy them. They were able to maintain their humanity in the midst of inhumanity.
We are able to make the same choice when adversity comes into our lives. We can grow defeated and beaten down by life or we can choose to refuse to allow adversity rob us of the pleasures that also come into our lives. We can choose to go through life miserable, or we can choose to enjoy life.
If we want to choose to enjoy life the first thing we need to learn is how to be grateful. This pandemic is bringing a lot of pain into people’s lives. We’re tired of being told to stay home. We’re tired of not being able to go to work or to visit family and friends. It’s a very stressful time for each of us. But, there is still much for which to be thankful.
I’m thankful for my wife of 53 years who has been such a joy to me all these years. I’m thankful for a home that is warm and safe. I’m thankful that we enjoy pretty good health for people our age. I’m thankful we have two healthy children and seven grandchildren. I’m thankful that we have food to eat. I’m thankful for our friends. I’m thankful that God is in my life and for the ministry that He has allowed me to have for the past 35 years. I’m thankful for a good mind that allows me to read and write and share my thoughts with others. Every night, as I lay down, I thank God for all the blessings that are mine.
The more we focus on the good things that have come into our lives, the happier (and healthier) we are going to be. The more we express our gratitude to God and others for the blessings they have been to us, the happier we are going to be. The choice is ours.