If you had the chance to delete the most painful memories from your mind…. would you? If you could easily take a pill and have it selectively delete any evidence of negativity and harm from your mind, leaving only positive, happy memories… would you be the first in line?
I would guess that most people, regardless of what they’ve gone through in life, would choose to keep all their memories… good and bad… positive and negative. After all, it’s the collection of our experiences that make us who we are. If you’re happy with who you are now, you should be happy for everything that brought you there.
And that includes showing gratitude for it all… even the bad stuff.
Over a decade ago, I was going through a very bad time. In every area of my life – personally and professionally – things were at a low. Then I’d heard someone say, “Thank God for it all. Thank Him for the lesson.”
At first, this seemed crazy to me. People today talk a lot about gratitude, especially with the popularity of The Secret, but back then being grateful for your hurts was not the common sentiment in America. Remember all those talk shows where people blamed their poor childhoods for all the problems in their life? Well I had a rough upbringing, too, but I certainly didn’t want to whine about it. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine being thankful for it, either.
Still, I was in so much pain that I was willing to try something new, so if being thankful for the bad stuff was something that would bring me peace, I’d do it. I got down on my knees and thanked God for everything: the biggest of which was my alcoholic father and everything that went with him – the rages, the embarrassment, the unpredictable behavior, the verbal abuse, the torment. All of it.
At first, my words of gratitude were hollow. An exercise. I still couldn’t quite believe them. I was still hurt, and when people are hurt they look for someone to blame. Being grateful removes blame.
As years went on, I could see how living with my father had shaped me. As a victim of verbal abuse, I knew the value of words. I was a different person than if I’d have had a father that treated me with love and respect – but that only meant I knew the value of love and respect in my own relationships. I behaved differently because of him. Even today, when my husband and I have an argument, we both tend to be very kind – we don’t hurl insults or say nasty things just to hurt the other person. We focus on the issue at hand, not on the person.
My father may not have been supportive of me, and certainly not of my writing, when I was a kid. But I can’t help thinking that wherever he is now he’s happy with the woman I am today – especially writing about my life in a way that will inspire others. I may not have fully felt those words of gratitude when I first said them all those years ago, but I know now that God was able to take them and make them real. And for that, I am truly grateful.