Years ago, I read a tweet something like the following: "Telling someone not to complain because other people have it worse is like telling people not to be happy because other people have it better."
I've repeated this justification for negativity to myself countless times. I've made petty molehills into mountains, pushing away every nagging thought that someone, somewhere has it worse. And even if someone does have it worse, who is anyone to tell me I'm not allowed to complain? Even if it could be worse, each new heartbreak or failure feels like the worst thing I, personally, have ever experienced.
I've begged God for things I want-- A's, boys, friends, earthly success-- and forgotten to thank or praise Him. This unholy religion breeds dissatisfaction. Saying the magic words hasn't brought me most of the things I've asked for, which I consider unfair.
I'm always horrified at the thoughts of injustice in the world or my loved ones suffering. I'm a firm believer that prayer is effective in these situations. So why is my prayer life so often focused on myself and not the far more tragic situations of others, including people I care about?
I'm going to start praying for selflessness and gratitude instead of rewards. These traits don't come naturally to me, but they're required of Christians. I'm going to be thankful and generous because I know someone is praying for the very things I have. In fact, I remember when I prayed for some of the things I have today.
If you're reading this Odyssey article, chances are you're an American college student. You have a laptop, smartphone and/or tablet to read it. I'm totally aware we don't all have the same privileges, and "equal opportunities" isn't fully realized in society. However, most of us are far more materially privileged than we recognize. Most of us are in a position to give more than we do.
We send~ good thoughts~ people's way and change our Facebook pictures to reflect the Trendy Tragedy of the Week. But are we really giving till it hurts? Are we really loving sacrificially the way Jesus commanded, or just enough for social media attention?
Material privileges aren't the only blessings we ignore. If you have a friend in Christ who's only a text message away, who lends you prayer and support whenever you need it, you are more blessed than you realize, even if this friendship is long distance. Two and a half years ago, I sobbed over a lost friendship (which wasn't even that healthy to begin with). Now I have a support group who still pray for me, despite being old and graduated and gone.
If you're the single friend, like me, you've probably forgotten what contentment with singleness even feels like. If only we were in relationships, and didn't have to listen to incessant wedding planning discussions and look at cringy hashtags and feel isolated. However, being single isn't the end of the world. Being in a relationship doesn't protect people from heartbreak or loneliness.
Instead of praying for a relationship, I'm praying to be more loving. Part of that is praying for others who struggle to feel loved. Another part is learning to just be unconditionally happy ( no ifs, ands, or buts) for happily engaged or newly wed people.
I can justify negativity all I want. I can ask, "Who are you to tell me my life isn't that bad, that other people have it worse?" But the facts remain. I have everything I need. God doesn't owe me everything else I want, but I owe gratitude to Him and generosity and selflessness to everyone around me. I'm going to start working on that instead of asking for rewards.