3 Steps to Turn Grumbles into Gratitude

Best-selling Author Tricia Goyer shares what she learned when she challenged her family to stop complaining.

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Did you know you can find deep contentment without spending a dollar or changing one thing about your day, your family or your life? In addition to this inner peace, you’ll have more joy, more gratitude and be a better an example for your family and friends. How?

By stopping your grumbling. In my book, I’ve chronicled how change can happen even in the midst of a big, messy family. The Grumble Free Year is our large family’s story of learning to grumble less. Eleven of us took on this challenge, and we kept track of how we messed up and what we could do better.

It’s easier to do than you think. Here are three ways to start.

1. Take control of your unrealistic expectations.

We grumble because we expect things to go one way and are thrown off when things don’t go as planned. Think about the next few hours. What do you hope will happen? What would be easy and comfortable to you? Now consider your response when something doesn’t go as planned. It doesn’t matter what happens, just think about how you’ll respond.

In my effort to stop grumbling, I thought about my unrealistic expectations that I could clean the house and it would stay clean. (We have eleven people living in our home after all!) I also considered how unrealistic it was that I could go through a day with my family and it would be conflict-free. There’s a lot of interacting happening with eleven people in the house …many of it brings strife.

Instead, I thought about how I’d respond when the house gets messy or the kids start to fight. Rather than being overwhelmed and grumbling, I considered how to help my family get back on track. Some days this meant pausing to do a 10-minute clean up, with all the kids helping. Other days, it meant pausing to help my children communicate with each other better, “How about we try that conversation again, this time with kind words?”

When we plan for our reactions, we handle situations better. We look beyond the problems and find solutions. We treat our family, friends and co-workers with respect, instead of just grumbling about what went wrong.

When we react with confidence, instead of feeling like a victim, we feel better about ourselves and others, too. We feel in control of our emotions. We believe that life is good, even though our day comes with bumps and struggles.

Taking control of our unrealistic exceptions, reacting positively and not grumbling is a great first step. But there’s a second step that leads toward deep contentment. After you stop your grumbling, you must replace it with gratitude.

2. Change your grumbling habit into gratitude.

We can control our reactions, but to truly get to deep contentment, we must replace our grumbling with gratitude.

When you feel like grumbling about something, instead take a deep breath and make a mental adjustment. Ask yourself, “I want to grumble about this, but how can I offer gratitude to God instead?”

When a car cuts you off on the freeway: “Thank you God for keeping me safe. Thank you for helping me be alert so I could avoid that accident.”

When your child dumps a laundry basket of clothes in front of the washer, just when you thought you were done: “Thank you God we have clothes to wear. Thank you, too, for the wisdom to help my kids learn how to care for their things and to be considerate of others.”

When you’re feeling overscheduled, overwhelmed and unappreciated: “Thank you God that you have given me a sound mind to make healthy changes in my life and the strength to be strong in the things I can’t change.”

The more we replace our grumbling with gratitude, the more we hard-wire better responses.

3. Hard-wire praise.

In my striving to stop grumbling (and to guide my family to do the same), my grandmother has been my greatest example. Grandma has dementia, and she lives with our family. A few years ago, Grandma fell and broke her back. Yet because of her dementia, each day she awoke with no memory of her injury. Instead of complaining, she’d thank me for taking care of her. She’d also thank God for how good He was to her. Throughout the day, I’d hear Grandma singing praises to God as she lay immobile on her bed.

Thankfully, over time, Grandma has gotten better, and she’s up and walking again with the use of a walker, but the lesson is one I won’t forget: when Grandma couldn’t even remember that her back was broken, she still remembered how to praise.

All those years of praising Jesus, instead of grumbling, had hard-wired praise into her soul. It was what she knew to do, even when things got hard. Now that is deep contentment.

Nothing I’ve suggested costs a dollar or requires you to change your day, your family or your life. Changing your expectations, changing your responses, and praising God in all things does bring change though … mostly to your heart.

Stopping grumbling is easier than you think. And contentment can come. The changes you make will impact you for a lifetime. Instead of investing your energy into negative emotions, you can turn your grumbles around to thank God for His goodness. Your family and friends will thank you for it, and you can be an example to prove that they can do the same. Isn’t that something to be thankful about?

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