There once was a man who was very unhappy. He worked at a coffee shop and he was unhappy about his job. He had to wait on customers and he was unhappy about dealing with so many people. His first wife had left him for another man and he was understandably unhappy about that. But he’d gotten re-married and he was unhappy about his new marriage. His new wife had brought along two teenaged children from her first marriage and he was very, very unhappy about his stepchildren.
He was quite unhappy.
One day at work, a customer got upset about how the unhappy man treated her when he took her order, so she told the manager that they should do something about that cranky man. Others heard the comment and they all began calling the unhappy man “Mr. Cranky.” This, too, made him very unhappy. When he told his wife about the mean name his co-workers had given him, his stepchildren overheard and it wasn’t long before they, too, began calling him Mr. Cranky. Soon the nickname seemed to attach itself to the unhappy man and everyone called him Mr. Cranky.
This made him even more unhappy.
The more unhappy Mr. Cranky became, the more things seemed to make him unhappy. He started to notice more and more unhappy things about his life. He drove an old car and he became very unhappy about not having a newer one. For the first time, Mr. Cranky realized that he lived in a hot, humid town and he was unhappy about being sticky all the time.
Unhappiness just seemed to grow in the pit of his stomach until it filled him up.
And it kept getting worse. The unhappier Mr. Cranky was about work, the customers, his car, and the weather, the crankier he was at home. His work days were miserable; when he got off work and walked outside into the hot, humid air he got cranky. Driving his old car home made him unhappy. So whenever he came home from work, he carried a load of unhappy into the house with him. This made his wife and stepchildren unhappy, too, so they argued and fussed more. Which made his wife more unhappy and she acted cranky whenever he came home.
His life, he confessed to his also unhappy dog, was just an unhappy mess.
Mr. Cranky collected enough complaints at work that his manager finally had to talk to him about it. His manager, a happy lady named Sharon, was more concerned about Mr. Cranky’s unhappiness than about the complaints. So, one day she asked Mr. Cranky to come into her office where they could talk privately. Instead of fussing at him about his poor work performance – because Ms. Sharon just wasn’t a fusser – she asked him about his life.
Mr. Cranky told her about his unhappiness with the customers, his car, the weather, and about his unhappy family life. Ms. Sharon knew about his divorce and how his wife had broken his heart, and as he talked about all the unhappiness in his life, she began to wonder if the divorce hadn’t been the start of his downward slide into the unhappy state he was now in.
“Have you ever forgiven your first wife for leaving you?” Ms. Sharon asked her employee.
“I don’t think I could do that,” Mr. Cranky said, his eyes on the floor.
“I’m going to ask you to do something this afternoon,” she said. “I want you to go to your ex-wife and tell her you forgive her for leaving you. Then you must come in tomorrow and tell me about it.”
Mr. Cranky told his boss that he would try, but that it would be very hard.
But he did it.
His ex-wife was not very pleasant about the idea, but she agreed to talk to him for a few moments. Mr. Cranky squeezed his sweating hands into fists as he looked into the eyes of the woman who had betrayed his love, wrecked his world, and broken his heart. She stared back.
Mr. Cranky said, “I have been very unhappy since you left me for that other man. It seems like my entire life has gone rotten and bitter since you let me down so badly. But I am here today to forgive you for everything you did to me when you left. I want to let go of the anger and the disappointment and the unhappiness that have taken over my life. I don’t know if I can forget everything, but I am making a commitment to do my very best to forgive you and move past what happened.”
Although his ex-wife wasn’t very helpful or encouraging (she didn’t really say much at all), as Mr. Cranky drove home, he felt a little better about himself and his life. Thinking about what he’d just done, he didn’t really notice the humid weather, and he had no time to dwell on his old car. When he got home, his unhappy dog slowly walked up the drive to meet his master. Mr. Cranky did a strange thing, something he hadn’t done in a long time. He picked up a stick, waved it at his dog and tossed it across the yard. The dog ran after the stick and brought it back, with a noticeable spring in his step.
When Mr. Cranky walked through his front door, he noticed that his wife, who was talking to her children, didn’t look up to greet him, and his stepchildren didn’t say anything either. So, feeling a bit better about himself, Mr. Cranky said, “Hello my family. I’m so glad to see you. I have something to talk to you about.” You’d have thought someone had dropped a whole set of cookware on a tile floor! They all stopped what they were doing and stared at him.
Mr. Cranky sat down and told his family that he had just forgiven his ex-wife for leaving him. Then he asked his wife and her children to forgive him for allowing his ex-wife to control his life. Because, he explained, by holding on to his anger and sense of betrayal against her for what she had done to him, he was putting that unhappiness in front of his love for his family, his job, and his whole outlook on life.
“What’s more,” he told them, “I am going to start putting you first in my life. I don’t want us to be unhappy anymore. I love you and want to give you a happy home.”
His wife smiled and said that it was about time, and hugged him tightly. His stepchildren weren’t sure how to take this news, but they smiled and told him they were glad he felt better. His dog laid his head on his master’s lap and smiled, too.
Next morning, when the now-happier man got to work, he went into his boss’s office and told her all that had happened. He asked if he could please have a chance to start over at his job and to
try to be a better employee. Ms. Sharon was very pleased to say yes, and that she was looking forward to a new beginning.
The rest of that day the happy man had a wonderful time recreating himself in his job. He was glad to see old customers and to watch their faces as they saw the new man he was becoming. Ms. Sharon got more compliments on the happy man’s new attitude than she ever got complaints about the old, cranky man. His fellow workers stopped calling him Mr. Cranky. And his day flew past happily.
When he got home, after playing catch with his happy dog, the happy man, his happy wife, and his less unhappy stepchildren enjoyed an evening together starting over.
And the unhappy man and his family lived happily ever after.
MORAL OF THE STORY
If you let anger and bitterness eat at your heart, you will be eaten up with unhappiness. YOU are the only one who chooses how happy or unhappy your life will be. Unfaithful spouses, less-than-ideal jobs, old cars, and cranky family members (or situations similar to those) are in everyone’s life. YOU have the wonderful power to CHOOSE to live that life happily or unhappily. God had given each person the gift of Free Will, with which to choose our outlook, if not our life.
Begin your new life by forgiving anyone in your past who has hurt you. Take back your power over your life. Then apply that Power to all the other aspects of your life. YOU can take over your life and make it happier.
Jesus teaches in Luke 6:
“… love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great,” and
“Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
STEPcoach Bob Collins