Sometimes when I spend too much time with children, it's easy for me to forget that once upon a time I was one. During a typical school week, I work Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at a preschool in the area. Those kids are something else. They often forget their manners, have little to no understanding of the concept of "personal space," make a TON of noise... they fight, they argue, they scream, they yell. Some days it's enough to drive a person insane. However, thinking about the ways that my three and four-year-old's act out, I realize that much of the time my attitude is not any better. It can be difficult not to get upset when things don't go our way--after all, why shouldn't they? When something in my life doesn't seem to be going right, more often than not my first instinct is to complain. Why me? I wonder. There's no good reason for this to be happening, I declare. The danger with this thought process though is that often times when I get upset for things going the "wrong" way, what I'm really angry about is that things aren't going my way. Therein lies the crux of the matter.
Sometimes I get incredibly frustrated with my preschoolers because some days they just can't seem to grasp the idea that you can't always get what you want. We have a saying we like to use with them: "You get what you get and you don't get upset." I tend to forget that this little proverb certainly has room for its application in my own life. Although I may be struggling with school, trying to figure out what the future has in store for me and how on earth I'm going to balance family, friends, relationships, work and everything else with what my education demands of me, it does not give me the right to be self-pitying or to spend the majority of my time complaining. Father Dan Beeman, a Catholic priest serving in the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, recently tweeted something that really resonated with me on this topic: "Self-praise and self-pity are both a danger to the Christian life." Now, I have to ask myself, in what ways has my self-pity prevented me from performing my duties as a Christian? Certainly, it has often made it difficult for me to exercise sympathy and to recognize that there is always someone else suffering more than I am at any given moment. A long-time friend of mine always tells me, "It could always be worse." No matter how arduous the situation, this statement holds true. Good itself is never purely absent from our lives. In our suffering, in our sadness, there is always a silver lining, so long as we take the time and effort to number and appreciate our blessings. God's love is always with us and often his most glorious gifts come to us in the form of challenges.
I recognize that I worry far too often, especially about things I cannot change. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus confronts this issue directly: "Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?" Here, the answer is clearly no. My worrying is not productive--if anything, it prevents me from focusing on the matters that so desperately merit my attention. I'm not always in control and although it drives me nuts to acknowledge that, it's something that I need to be okay with, otherwise I will have an extremely difficult time finding peace in the years to come. When things do not go my way, I have to learn to see such events as an opportunity to grow. Self-pity and complaining more often than not are ventures that do not bring fruit, rather they distract us from the reality at hand and from the aspects of our lives that we can control and change. I pray that with this realization I can learn to better cope with the things in my life that frustrate me and to trust that God will lead me down the proper path so long as I follow Him.