My Thai wife and I have developed a little game. Mondays are Husband’s day and everything centers around pleasing me (him). Fridays are Wife’s day, and the same holds true for her. Because we are for all practical purposes retired and childless, obligations that weigh us down are virtually non-existent. What we’re doing is really just a way to celebrate our good fortune.
Celebrating good fortune is a way to cultivate gratitude, which leads to increased joy and mental health. Chronic whining and fault-finding is the flip side of that coin. We all know where that leads.
There’s a movie called Diary of a Country Priest which was made about 1948 by Jean Renoir. It tells the story of a shy, humble parish priest in a small French town. Nobody holds him in high regard and his superior treats him like a dog, an attitude picked up by the members of their parish. Eventually, he catches tuberculosis and dies, and his last words are “Everything is Grace!”
Grace, as you might recall from your Baltimore catechism is an “unearned gift from God.” It is not by works that we are saved, but by Grace. If we were all more aware of just how much grace we already enjoy, and will have access to in the future, we could relax and enjoy the bliss of the present moment. But we lack faith and are keenly aware that sometimes the good fortune of others seems to exceed our own. We become bitter and full of self-pity. We blame our unhappiness on our circumstances, even though they are fully sufficient for a plenitude of bliss.
Another movie, Babette’s Feast has the same message. We are awash in a river of good luck, and no matter how poor our choices in life, in the long run they pale in significance to the glories we are due to inherit. So stop your griping and smile.
When you do your best to honor others, even those you disagree with, you’re on the fast track to real peace of mind and contentment. You realize the world is a bigger place than you thought it was, full of more possibilities than you ever dared imagine. Black and White thinking reduces things. Having to be right is a trap. Giving advice that nobody asked for and pointing out what others are doing wrong is a service to nobody, least of all yourself.
Moving to the other side of the world exposed me to entirely different ways of going about the simple business of being alive. Seeing that others can endure and thrive, care for children, support their families, and govern themselves without my advice or permission has humbled me. I keep waiting for them to ask advice, but they never do.