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Getting from Cranky to Grateful

So here we are, the holiday season is almost upon us and I have to admit I’m struggling with what seems to be a national mood of crankiness in place of the kinder/gentler feelings that we would all like to be sharing along with our Thanksgiving turkeys.

To me, it seems there are too many folks out there who have become incredibly cranky, disruptive, and sometimes dangerously violent. I was reminded of that when I heard that another angry passenger had punched an airline employee, landing the employee an overnight stay in the hospital and the passenger under arrest. According to the FAA, flight crews have logged 5,114 reports of unruly passenger incidents so far in 2021, with actions ranging from verbal abuse to spitting and physical altercations. Closer to home, a few of our own neighbors have become disruptive during events as commonplace as town halls and school board meetings.

Some might say that even Jesus wasn’t above exhibiting a little crankiness, see for example the passages from the book of Mark regarding Jesus marching in and disrupting the activities in the Temple. But for me, most of the recent public crankiness seems way out of place and it makes me feel sad, disgusted, and frankly a little cranky. I also find it pretty hard to see Jesus in the actions of a privileged few who seem unwilling to take even minor precautions in the interest of the health and welfare of their fellow humans.

It turns out that it’s not so easy for humans to get from crankiness to gratefulness. According to a finding in relationship psychology from John Gottman of the University of Washington, it takes at least five positive interactions to make up for just one negative one, leading to a sort of “negativity bias” within the human psyche. As best selling author and psychologist Rick Hansen says, “the mind is like Velcro for negative experiences, and Teflon for positive ones.”

So how do we get there, how do we overcome the bias we were all born with and get to a much healthier state of mind? There are literally hundreds if not thousands of books on the subject, but for me, I intend to focus on being grateful, being especially grateful to our scientists and engineers for the miracle of vaccines, masks, and the new antiviral medications; being grateful for dedicated airline employees working during the holidays so that far flung families can safely gather together and share their hugs again; grateful for those who toil to make our schools safe and transformative for all of our youth; grateful for those who work the hard and dangerous jobs on the farms and food processing plants to bring us our holiday feasts; grateful for our service men and women stationed all over the globe; grateful for first responders and police in a country awash in guns; grateful for those in our church and in our community actively trying to counter hate in favor of tolerance and love.

I know that there will be days ahead when things will happen or news will reach me that will leave me with feelings of anger or frustration and leave me, well…. cranky. So most of all I’m grateful for a God who loves us all even when we’re cranky

May your holiday season be one filled with gratefulness,

Jerry Kahrs


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