Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

Thanks Living

A friend sent me an email detailing “things for which to be thankful.” Here are a few of them:

  • The teenager who is complaining about doing dishes, because that means she is at home and not on the streets.
  • The taxes I pay because it means that I’m employed.
  • The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.
  • A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
  • My huge heating bill because it means that I am warm.
  • The space I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.

And the list goes on…

That got me thinking about this year. I don’t know about you, but ’03 has been (I say euphemistically) “challenging.” I’ve shared a few of my traumatic events of the year with you, such as the death of my mother. But, in the midst of trauma, there really have been wonderful blessings. And looking back on some of the things that have happened, I treasure what I’ve learned about the grace of God and about myself.

“In all things, give thanks.” Notice that this Scripture verse did not read, “FOR all things, give thanks.” I believe that there are three good reasons to give thanks IN all things…even those life experiences we would have never wished for in a thousand years.

The Comfort of Contrast

You visit your jeweler, shopping for a precious diamond. How does the jeweler display the sparkling diamond for maximum beauty and impact? Most often, against a black velvet backdrop.

Have you ever noticed that “darkness” makes you appreciate the “brighter” times much more? For instance, consider these contrasts:

  • The cooling temperatures of autumn after a sweltering, humid summer;
  • Little successes after a stinging failure;
  • The beginning of clarity and focus after a period of frustrating confusion;
  • The experience of loyal friendship after another person has betrayed or abandoned you;
  • Beginning to feel more energy after a bout with the flu;
  • The beginnings of a comeback after an embarrassing setback.

Learn to appreciate the negative events in your life. They can sharpen your awareness of what is really important. Without these contrasts, you are in grave danger of taking your blessings for granted.

Hidden Treasures

Another reason to give thanks in life’s troublesome times is that there are hidden nuggets, valuable treasures glimmering from the ashes. You’ll see them if you look for them.

Remember the time when you experienced a closed door, which caused you to explore and discover new opportunities?

Or how about the times you’ve felt an oasis of comfort in the midst of great discomfort, when you saw a glimmer of hope and latched onto it?

What about those unwelcome detour signs in the straight path you had planned? Were there valuable experiences along that detour route?

Learn to look for the shining nuggets. Skills of optimism are truly refined in the fire.

Can Good Come From Bad?

John Walsh is a shining example of this principle. As you know, he tragically lost his beloved son Adam to the hands of a murderer. Though he went through the anger, anguish, and grief that any normal parent would in those circumstances, he didn’t stop there. He determined to do what he could to help other victims through a public initiative to catch dangerous criminals. Thus, the birth of the phenomenon, “America’s Most Wanted.”

You can make a choice, as Walsh did, to bring good from the bad that happens in your life. One of my favorite scriptures is Romans 8:28: “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Again, this does not mean that all things ARE good. I believe it means that, if you choose to honor honest, yet loving principles in your responses to bad things, good will come.

I do a significant amount of expert testimony in criminal cases. By contrast to the above principle, I often have the opportunity to observe the results of becoming bitter and determining to even the score. Normal people over time can become possessed with the rageful pursuit of revenge. They often pay the price for that behind bars for many years. Likewise, others whose attitudes never cause them to become involved in the legal system live behind emotional bars, wasting their lives. It’s not worth it.

Another way that good can come from bad things is the lessons we learn about ourselves. Without hard knocks and the consequences of bad choices, most of us continue down a pathway that leads us deeper and deeper into destructive outcomes. Lessons hard-bought from life are most remembered.

I’m thankful for what I’ve learned through my weaknesses and struggles. From the bottom of my heart, I want the things I’ve learned in the difficult times of my life to help me become a more compassionate and productive person. I’m determined to take the things that have hurt and use them to bless others.

I thank God for His promise to energize that process.

In closing, I want to tell each of you how thankful I am for you, my readers and friends. I wish you and those you love the most blessed of Thanksgiving seasons.


Dr. Bev

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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