Gratitude and Complaint

The theme of gratitude has been popping up a lot for me lately. I want to be more grateful for the constant stream of blessing flowing toward me, whether I recognize them or not. For example, I am alive. Whatever else is going on, this is true. It is also true that my ancestors survived a tremendous amount to make way for me now, something that is true for all of us at some point. Gratitude for that alone could take up all of my time, for example. I’ve been thinking about gratitude because I believe it’s impossible to be grateful enough. No matter our circumstances, there is always something to be grateful for.

Complaint has the power to take us away from our own hearts by making us forgetful and prideful.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our complaints, we stop noticing all that we have to be grateful for. Considering gratitude necessitates thinking about my relationship to complaint. There is a saying in Islam that it is best to complain only to God. I most definitely fail at this. I mention to this person and that how tired I am, how frustrated I am by this or that, how cold it is, etc. I intend to maintain an attitude of gratitude in most conversations but somehow those complaints manage to sneak in sometimes. I wonder what it would take consistently focus on my gratitude in my speech? I like to think I mostly do so, but I know there is much more wonder to remember and for which to give thanks. Many Muslims say simply “Alhamdulillah”—all praise to God. In Nigeria many people respond to “how are you?” with “God is good.” What would I have to let go of to say just that without adding “I’m a bit tired…” at the end of it, or some similar complaint? Sometimes I do get confused about the potential difference between complaint and saying a true thing.

About 14 years ago I visited my friend Felicia in California. As she prepared for bed, she took out two bowls, one full of 100 marbles.

What are you doing? I asked

I’m doing my gratitudes. This is my gratitude bowl. Every night, for each marble, I say one thing I’m grateful for, and move it to the empty bowl.

Years later I am still amazed that she did 100 a day! I did it with her while I was there and as we got into the 70s and 80s it became a bit more challenging, and that was the most beautiful part of the experience for me. After giving thanks for the things that came relatively easy—family, friends, health, etc., when I thought I’d pretty much covered everything, how much more to give thanks for in all of creation! Considered on that scale 100 is a paltry offering!   

Not only is gratitude a must for your spirit, it also has an amazing impact on your health. Consistently, consciously giving thanks daily can dramatically reduce stress, improve your outlook and more.*

I am laughing at myself as I write this, noticing the part of myself that doesn’t want you to get the wrong impression, the part of me that wants to assure you that indeed I am very grateful, the part that wants you to think well of me. This is what Landmark calls the “Sea of Opinions—wanting to look good and wanting to avoid looking bad.” That’s a big topic, which we’ll save for another day. I invite you to notice what is coming up for you as you think about increasing your gratitude.


11 things I’m grateful for today, right now this instant

  • I am alive!
  • I am healthy
  • My beloved
  • My heart
  • Dhikr
  • I was able to get a bike
  • I rode my bike safely home after not having been on a bike in 10 years!
  • Some lovely conversations
  • Learning about Renaissance Souls (wow, very powerful for me!)
  • A warm home
  • You, dear reader




Questions for your consideration:

  • What are you grateful for today? In your life at large? In all the world?
  • What would it take for you to increase your gratitude and lessen your complaints?


*A couple of short articles on the health benefits of gratitude:

4 thoughts on “Gratitude and Complaint

  1. and what about your parents who are responsible for your very existence and who sacrificed much for you to be grateful today?????sometimes we forget the most important pieces of the puzzell.

    1. I’m not forgetting my parents at all, and give thanks for them every day, especially in prayer.
      I know my parents, particularly you Mumsy, have done much for me to have the life I have.
      Generally speaking, regardless of one’s relationship with parents, they are what Meshell Ndegeocello calls “my vessel to this blessed earth”, and that alone is reason enough to be grateful.

  2. So much 2 be grateful 4 dear.Im alive,fit,healthy,have amazing friends.I can hear,talk nd see nd walk.I can afford clothes,food nd shelter.Honestly I cannot enumerate all I should be grateful 4.To do that would be 2 write an entire book on gratitude.Now I know that mountains could be moved,hearts could be conquered,love could be won,death could be avoided,HIV cured,terrorism and hatred completely eliminated.I kow that all I need 2 achieve greatness is believing I can achieve greatness.I also know that GOD is not interested in any religion,HEs rather only interested in ‘souls’.This knowledge makes me 2 be always grateful cos Im among d very few ppl on this earth that do not give a damn abt ones religious practice so long as d psn loves GOD nd pursues peace.Im equally grateful 2 GOD 4 giving me a friend like u.U revolutionalize my life on a constant basis.Thanks nd thanks angel.

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