I've noticed a trend on the Internet lately. Someone will post a blog about why they're grateful they have kids, and invariably, someone in the comment trail will say, "But you're making people without kids feel bad."
This trend extends to real life. Someone will bear their testimony in church about how grateful they are that they recovered from an illness, and later, someone else is overheard to say, "Well, that's nice, but what about Brother Jones? He didn't get well. I wonder if that testimony offended Sister Jones."
A very well-known author likes to praise his wife in his Facebook statuses. He loves her dearly and is grateful to have her in his life, and he mentions it frequently. One of his followers chastised him for it, saying that he was hurting the feelings of those who don't have good marriages or aren't married at all.
And I feel for the people who don't have that kind of love and who have lost loved ones to illness or accidents and I'm so sorry for all those who have never had children. Not for one minute would I want to open their wounds.
And yet ...
And yet ...
My life isn't perfect. Anyone who hangs around me long enough to hear me whine will attest to that. I have some fairly serious things I'm working through and seeking to overcome. But here's the thing - I'm so, so blessed, and I know I am, and I would be the worst kind of person if I did not tell my Heavenly Father thank you every single day. I know where my blessings come from. I know His hand is in my life. And if I withheld my praise because I was worried about hurting someone's feelings, I would be hurting my relationship with my Father in Heaven.
And the thing is this.
Perhaps I say I'm grateful for an amazing husband, and you're on the brink of divorce and my comment reminds you of your pain. But you know what - you might just have something that my heart yearns for. My gratitude for what I have shouldn't diminish your gratitude for what you have - we are both blessed. It just might be in different ways.
And you know what else - it's not a contest. We don't hold contests to see who really has more to be grateful for because it's not possible to measure it - gratitude has nothing to do with how many awesome things you have. It has everything to do with your attitude and how much thankfulness you show for whatever you do have. A woman with nine children might, on paper, have more to be grateful for than a woman who has only had one, but if the woman with one recognizes her blessings, her gratitude can easily surpass that of the other woman's.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this. It's a wonderful thing to choose our words carefully and to avoid saying things that we know will cause pain. But if it means that we're neglecting to say things that really need to be said, we're not really helping each other. And neglecting to give thanks for the things that we do have not only slows down our ability to recognize other blessings, but damages our most important relationship, which is with God.
I'm grateful for a fantastic husband who loves me no matter what, supports me in everything I do, and is super easy on the eyes.
I'm grateful for four amazing kids who make me laugh and make me think and make my heart melt.
I'm grateful for my house.
I'm grateful for two cars.
And I could go back through that list and add caveats - my house is too small for us now and we need a bigger one, and both our cars are falling apart, and the other day my kids had a fight ... doesn't matter. Isn't relevant. I'm grateful.
And most of all, I'm grateful for a Heavenly Father who walks beside me every day, sent His Son to die for me and live for me, gives me peace and calm and comfort in life's storms, and gives me purpose for everything I do.
My life's not perfect. I'm sometimes deeply saddened by the things I would dearly love to have that I don't, things I won't go into here but that sometimes make my heart hurt. But when I have those moments, I can ask my Heavenly Father to help increase my gratitude in other things, and that does help lessen the sting. And you know what? I'm grateful for that, too.