Sitting on the swing this morning I was overcome with gratitude. It started, oddly enough, when remembering a minor confrontation I had with a stranger the other day. I kept dwelling on it and being irritated and angry whenever I thought of it. I spent an inordinate amount of mental energy formulating perfect responses I could have thrown out in the moment.
I began to wonder why something trivial and obnoxious takes up so much time in our minds and is so readily remembered and focused on. I thought of other similarly small events, many from years and years ago that I could still easily recall. I've had a pretty nice life and had some extraordinary experiences, why do they not come to mind as quickly?
Why is a hurtful word uttered by someone a decade ago called to memory so immediately while so many pleasant memories lay uncovered? So I devised a plan of thinking. Whenever an unpleasant memory comes to me I will give it no quarter but think of some pleasant memory from my life.
I tried this out yesterday morning and it worked pretty well. But today when I woke up more and more memories were available. I thought of my parents and how good they were even with all their faults. I thought about houses we lived in and schools we went to, Sunday school teachers and pastors, kind neighbors and teachers. Clothes, meals, bikes, toys, pleasant surroundings always and on top of that good health, medicine, and doctor visits. As I thought of all these things and how frequently I focus on what was omitted from my childhood or how my mother's personality revealed itself as I was an adult I felt ashamed. The goodness and blessings of living in this country and growing up in the second half of the 20th century are miracles compared to any previous time in history and even now in many places around the world.
Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy think about such things and the peace of God will be with you.
We hear this verse taught in regard to our thinking but I've never thought of applying it to our memories. On a side note, recent research is revealing how unreliable our memories are, how easily they are assigned to us, or are partially or completely inaccurate. Energy follows focus so if we are looking to be the most productive and helpful people possible we can use this Biblical version of reframing to help us focus on and prioritize what is good while keeping thinking negativity at bay. What follows naturally is gratitude and peace.