Last Sunday one of my parishioners gave me a Peanuts cartoon strip in which Linus reveals that he has a sliver in his finger. Lucy, never bereft of an opinion, informs Linus that the sliver is proof that he is being punished which means that he has done something bad. Linus insists that he hasn’t done anything wrong and that he just has a sliver in his finger! Lucy, ever adamant, insists that he just isn’t aware of his transgression otherwise he wouldn’t be being punished, the proof of which IS the sliver! Linus squeezes the sliver out of his finger and comments, “Thus endeth the theological lesson for today.”
Sometimes events don’t actually have the meaning that we give to them! Rain at an outdoor wedding may feel like a curse to the bride but be like a blessing to the plants! Getting stopped for a traffic ticket may seem like a punishment until one finds out that having been stopped prevented you from being in the midst of a 20-car pileup further down the road! So why do we too often gravitate toward negative interpretations?
Perhaps we don’t spend enough time trying to deliberately become aware of the blessings in our life? Were we to focus on our blessings we could train ourselves to see blessings where previously we only saw punishment! Like wearing psychological and emotional glasses through which we view life, our mindset colors the meaning of what we experience and our mindset is formed by what we focus upon! Some things are neither good nor bad, they just “are.” Sometimes through no fault of our own bad things happen. Why then do we insist on making ourselves miserable by reaching out for a negative interpretation? No one can force us to see what we don’t see! Happiness is a choice and no one can force us to be happy!