She entered the unoccupied house. Tasting each of the three bowls on the table. She said, “This porridge is too hot. This porridge is too cold. This porridge is just right.” Trying three chairs, the same routine. Trying three beds, the same. Goldilocks was a trespasser, a thief, and a consumer of private property, who left the scene of the crime prior to her arrest. Yet, she was bold enough to compare the acceptability of the items she pilfered. The cold porridge and the hot porridge allowed Goldilocks to know which was the perfect porridge. If she had not tasted those, she may not have known. Bad experiences can build our gratitude when we find the good.
Surfers sometimes visit an area they don’t normally surf. When they complain about the quality of the waves, the locals will say, “You should’ve been here yesterday. It was breaking perfectly then.“
Jenny and Bill paid a lot of money to fly from Chicago to San Diego for their spring vacation. Having rented a substantial boat, they sailed on the bay. It was OK. Jenny said the wind was too low and was supposed to pick up at 3 o’clock. He said, “Yeah, but we’re leaving before then.” She got angry. Bill was happy because they were together, sailing in a beautiful warm location. He smiled all the way back to Chicago on the plane while Jenny fumed about their ruined vacation. They had the same planes, hotel, meals, boat, weather, and companionship. One was happy about all of it, and one let part of it ruin the whole trip.
A great source of discontent is comparing something that we have with what we don’t have. The classic is the disgruntled husband who says, “This spaghetti is not like the one my Mother used to make.” His wife’s version of the classic is just fine, but he has a vision in his mind of a pasta dish even his mother probably never delivered.
Another source of frustration is unfulfilled expectations. Jenny had a perfect level of wind in mind for their sailing day; breezy enough to give a good push, but not so strong as to threaten their safety. Since the range of the wind can be from zero to 100 mph, the tight range of her expectations could have been very narrow indeed. A wind of 12 mph might have been too low, and a wind of 20 mph might have been too strong. It is easy to see that her expectations could have been so narrow to make the perfection she sought almost impossible to realize.
The development of gratitude comes from lowered expectations and the acceptance of what is. It is alright to ask for perfection. It is also perfectly alright to be satisfied with what is given to us. Gratitude enhances the gift, making it better still.
Even Goldilocks did not complain about the items she rejected. She just accepted their unacceptability and moved on to something else. It is very easy to let relatively small differences spoil what could be a wonderful experience.
By Bob Bekins
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