Gratitude: the Antidote for Pain

“So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.” -Marcus Aurelius

It’s 4:37am. I can’t sleep because of a really f**king painful sore throat.

When my wife and I moved to South Korea to teach English for a year, we knew it’d be tough. But we’ve sick, a lot — working with kids who cough and sneeze all over you probably doesn’t help.

Swallowing is agony. I took sleeping pills and I’m still awake for hours on end at night. I’m pumping myself full of medicine and staying in bed all day. I haven’t gotten any better in several days.

Pain. It fucking sucks.

But there’s an antidote.


Last night, as I was experiencing the smallest relief in a hot shower (the steam helps), I just began thanking God for everything I could think of.

And a funny thing started to happen.

I began to realize how great I have it. I may be sick, sure. But I have a beautiful, loving wife. I get to travel through Korea. I have hot water for a shower. I have a body that heals itself. I’ve made new friends in Korea. We’re saving a lot of money.


There’s a saying in the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“There isn’t a problem you can have that won’t be made worse by drinking.”

This means as bad as your circumstances may be, you can always make them worse (usually with behaviors with which you’re the most familiar). Complaining. Negative attitude. Resentment. Shirking responsibility.

On the other hand, you can always make a situation better by practicing a simple mindset:

One of gratitude.

The Obstacle is the Way

Just as you overhear people saying that ‘the doctor prescribed such-and-such for him say this: ‘Nature prescribed illness for him.’ Or blindness. Or the loss of a limb. Or whatever.

And in that case, let’s accept it — as we accept what the doctor prescribes. It may not always be pleasant, but we embrace it — because we want to get well. -Marcus Aurelius

We can never life a life of positivity, wellness, and wholeness if we continue to indulge in toxic behaviors that bring us down.

The larger mob of humanity — the majority of folks who will never truly be successful—are not willing to change their lifestyle and attitudes. When obstacles arrive, they continue to engage in negative, dead-end behaviors like:

  • complaining
  • whining
  • resentment
  • self-loathing
  • self-pity
  • avoiding responsibility
  • blaming

These are what keep us where we are, and prevent us from going where we want to go. From becoming who we want to be.

Just as you might hear a doctor “prescribing” some form of medicine for an ailment, life “prescribes” situations and circumstances to you. They may not be pleasant; but like cough medicine, we take our prescription because we want to get better.

Literally, I’ve been taking a lot of medicine. But figuratively, I need to accept and take this entire circumstance (in my case, an agonizing sore throat). This situation was given to me, and I can choose to make it an opportunity to grow.

I can support and jumpstart this process by practicing the uncommon attitude of gratitude.

Gratitude helps you see the larger picture, and pulls you out of negative self-obsession. You become thankful the problem isn’t worse. You become thankful because you realize these problems are simply an opportunity to grow. You become thankful in the midst of unpleasant, painful, even catastrophic circumstances.

In Conclusion

I hate having a sore throat. It sucks. But I can counteract the pain by engaging in gratitude, accepting life on life’s terms, an viewing obstacles and pain as opportunities to practice gratitude for what I have, instead of focusing on what I wish I had.

You can apply this principle to your life in every area — everything from a sore throat to a loss of a job; the minor inconveniences that arise every day to a major life-altering obstacles.

Gratitude is the antidote.

And acceptance is the answer to all our problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find a person, place, thing, or situation, some fact of my life, unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it’s supposed to be at this moment.

Unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate, not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to change with me and my attitudes.

-The Acceptance Prayer



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