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Opinion: Better than I deserve, better than I deserve

I never thought of myself as a complainer. Until one day nearly 20 years ago, as I was talking to a dear friend on the phone, I overheard his wife say something in the background.

J. and I didn’t talk often by phone, and we didn’t live anywhere near each other anymore. So we usually spent at least a few minutes on our calls catching up on the good, bad and so forth in each our lives.

As I was talking about what I saw as my current misfortunes at the time, I heard his wife ask who was J. talking to? “Brett,” was his reply.

That’s when she said the words that stung: “I don’t know why you want to talk to him so often. All he does is complain.”

I stopped talking mid-sentence, then switched to something good that was going on. It was probably about one of the kids.

I don’t complain as much anymore, especially when I’m talking to J. or his wife. She doesn’t think that about me anymore, either, thankfully. I know because I talked with them about the conversation and its effect on me.

I still don’t think of myself as a complainer. But during those times I choose to gripe about something, I am sometimes loud about it, post on social media about it and it becomes the way I’m seen.

I’m the guy who griped about turn signals and parking in handicap designated spots. I’m trying hard not to do that lately.

I’ve been ‘clean and sober’ almost 48 hours. The one-year token seems a long way away.

The apostle Paul cautioned the church at Philippi to “do all things without grumbling” (Philippians 2:14). James also wrote, “Do not grumble against one another” (James 5:9).

As a Christian, I’m supposed to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and have a joyful heart (Proverbs 17:22), because these things are God’s will and good medicine, respectively.

Author Richard Carlson said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff … and it’s all small stuff.” He was right.

Another friend of mine always answers the same way when you ask him how he’s doing. “Better than I deserve,” Billy says. “Better than I deserve.”

A former co-worker always replies with, “If I was any better, I couldn’t stand to be around myself.”

If I’m asked how I’m doing, I automatically say I’m good or fine or something like that.

I don’t think we ought to lie — if I’m sick or angry or in the middle of the worst mess of my life — but I think I ought to have a good attitude, nonetheless. That attitude will help me to see the blessings, the good, and realize I’m not so bad off.

I remember talking with each of my kids at some point about a rough time they were having. They’d be irritated or upset by the way someone else was acting, and maybe they’d even acted rude in return.

“Can you control what they do, or how they act?” I’d ask. “No, sir.”

“Can you control what you do, or how you act?” “Yes, sir.”

“OK, then,” I’d say. “You just worry about you and let God worry about them, and  you’ll know you’re doing the right thing.”

It’s good advice I have to remind myself of sometimes. Don’t worry about things I can’t control, and take care of what I can — me.

And right now I’m good. In fact, I’m better than I deserve.

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com or 601-265-5307.