Thankful For the Bad Stuff? Really?

“Expressing gratitude is a powerful practice. It transforms painful events. That doesn’t mean saying ‘thank you’ only for receiving something good, although that’s part of it…we can turn almost any experience around by practicing gratitude for what we experience or feel each moment, especially the moments we don’t like. If we’re grateful for what we label good, we’ll only be grateful a few times each week.” -Melody Beattie

Every year on Thanksgiving people stop and take a moment to reflect on what they are thankful for. I am thankful for my family, health, a job… blah, blah, blah. This of course is all good and we should all be thankful for these things. But what about the bad stuff? Is it possible not only to be thankful for the good in the midst of the bad, but to be thankful for the bad? Well let me rephrase…

Can we be thankful for the possible meaning and purpose behind the seemingly bad?

Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I think if I’ve had some sort of breakthrough or clarity about a situation I can do it. But if I’m struggling with understanding in a certain area of life, it’s more difficult. So I’ve decided to challenge myself. Can I come up with 5 seemingly bad things to be thankful for? Let’s see:

I’m thankful that I am in my late 30s and still live at home with my mom
I’m thankful that I am in my 7th long year of working on my doctorate
I’m thankful that I’m single
I’m thankful for the past dysfunction in my family
I’m thankful for my financial failures

You may be thinking, really, Michele. Seriously. You expect me to believe you are grateful for all of that.

Not on the surface, but there’s always more. I will rephrase these statements and maybe it will make more sense:

I’m thankful that I am in my late 30s and still live at home with my mom…because this time I am spending with my mom is precious. It is my privilege to care for her in her old age and in the midst of her health challenges. It is my honor to get to know her as an adult. The memories we are building together now, I will carry with me when she is no longer with me. And I will have no regrets.

I’m thankful that I am in my 7th long year of working on my doctoral degree…because I really don’t see how things could have progressed any quicker. There are certain realizations I have made in my personal and spiritual journey that have been integrated into the progress I have made in my doctoral journey. The missing elements I have discovered in my doctoral research could not have happened unless I took the necessary steps of self discovery. And this takes time.

I am thankful that I am single…because I am not currently in an abusive or unfulfilling relationship. This time is allowing me to really understand the meaning of Love and has given me hope for the future and something to trust God for.

I am thankful for the past dysfunction in my family…because it gives me something to write about. I will be honest, this blog, my essays; none of this would be here if I did not have to emotionally heal from something. And if communicating my message of healing, recovery, and connection is a part of my purpose, then it makes sense that I would have had to have experiences that parallel with that message.

And finally, I am thankful for my financial failures….because they have taught me to value the concept of financial responsibility. Although I have a long way to go in this area of my life, my financial failures have made me aware of my weaknesses and the areas that need improvement. I have also learned to rely on my spiritual source more than ever.

I will not lie to you. Making that list was tough, but I think every once in awhile it is necessary to look at the things we think are going wrong in our lives through a different lens. I challenge everyone on this Thanksgiving day to be thankful for every good thing…and even a few bad ones.

Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Thankful For the Bad Stuff? Really?

    1. Thanks so much for reading. You’re right, I think it’s because it’s so easy to be thankful when things are going good. It’s like praying for and loving our enemies. How does only being thankful for the good really challenge us? Thanks for your kind words. 🙂

  1. Hmm…this reminds me of those times when people would normally rage, like an angry professor silencing a noisy class, or a driver who totally forgot that their passenger paid the fare. Those experiences are times that I’ve been through, but they became good sources of inspiration for writing when I decided to calm myself down and look at the bright side. Shifting to a better view does feel magical, don’t you think?

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