Count your blessings?

中国日报网 2014-10-20 09:22



Count your blessings?

Reader question:

Please explain “count your blessings” in this sentence: The best way for a person to have happy thoughts is to count his blessings and not his cash.

My comments:

This reminds me of a friend. Someone I also know about told my friend that he cannot go to sleep at night, even when he tries the trusted method of counting sheep. As this person is a successful businessman, my friend told him to count his cash instead.

“Change all the money you make into cash, and count them before going to bed.”

He was joking, of course.

Anyways, the person who gives you the advice that the best way for a person to have happy thoughts is to count his blessings and not his cash is trying to say, I think, one or two things.

First, count your blessings and remind yourself how lucky you are.

How lucky you are, that is, to have what you already have – whatever you have.

Second, cash is not something you can count on.

Not when happiness is concerned at any rate. I once heard a celebrity antiques collector say something which is very revealing. He said he will give away all his collections after he is gone. And, for old age (he’s in his late 50s, I assume), he will only keep money enough for food and clothes. He wants to part ways with his money and wealth because he feels having money has led him to being surrounded by all the wrong people. Or the once good people with him all begin to turn bad now that he is rich – or something like that.

He asks: “When you’re surrounded three-deep by bad people, how can good people come near you?”

I think he’d made a good point but generally you cannot say this to a young person, who always tends to say they want to have money first and then see what happens.

Well, that’s what I like them to do, too because I realize most people do need a concrete experience of something to have a concrete feeling of it. Their mind doesn’t work very well when it comes to the abstract. They need to feel everything first hand to know it’s real.

In today’s age of mega materialism, young people are often led to equate money with wealth and wealth with happiness. As a result, everywhere you look, you see people going after money first and foremost, and often in a manner so straightforward and direct that it’s embarrassing. They don’t seem to mind the embarrassment, though, because they just want it so bad. And they want it now, not later.

Things have gotten to such a point that it is very hard to tell young people to rely on honest and hard work to get ahead even though in the long run honesty remains the best overall policy.

And that’s the thing. The long run. It’s too long. They cannot see that far.

At any rate, the speaker seems to be trying to say that counting cash, which stands for material wealth, won’t make you happy. Instead, you should count your blessings and realize how lucky you are, how lucky you already are.

Blessings are best understood in the religious sense. Christians for example often say God bless me this, God bless me that. By that they mean to say, among other things, how grateful they are to God, who they want to remain on their side – to take care of them in future when things don’t go their way.

I am told that some Israelis ask their children to count their blessings daily, naming them one and all. That way, children will learn, among other things, to be grateful to this world.

Metaphorically speaking and in the common sense, blessings represent all the good things people do to you and for you, whether you deserve it. And by counting your blessings, you’re advised to understand and enjoy what you already have, rather than what you don’t have.

And that surely helps if you want to have happy thoughts, won’t it?

Whatever you do, don’t count your cash.

That is, don’t count on it. It won’t even help you get to sleep.

Alright, here are media examples of “count your blessings”:

1. Kevin Bacon doesn’t understand why people want a lot of money.

The ‘X-Men: First Class’ actor - who lost most of his savings to investor Bernard Madoff, who was jailed for 150 years in 2009 for his fraudulent schemes - slammed the “evil” of greed, admitting he can’t comprehend why some feel the need to surround themselves with unnecessary assets.

He said: “I think one of the most pervasive evils in this world is greed and acquiring money for money’s sake.

“Once you have six houses and a plane, it’s just about a number. It’s never been anything I understood.”

Kevin - who has children Travis, 21, and Sosie, 19, with wife Kyra Sedgwick - says his bad experience with Madoff has taught him to count his blessings, and also be more aware of his own finances.

He added in an interview with The Sun newspaper: “When it happened to us and it was all gone overnight, we said, ‘We are in this together, we are healthy, our children are healthy and we can work’. So don’t feel too sorry for the Bacons.”

- Kevin Bacon doesn’t understand ‘evil’ greed,, June 1, 2011.

2. If you feel underappreciated by your spouse, it may be because he or she isn’t getting enough sleep, a new study suggests.

Sleep deprivation can leave couples “too tired to say thanks” and may leave a partner feeling as if they are being taken for granted, according to the findings by University of California, Berkeley researchers.

More than 60 couples took part in each of two experiments. The participants ranged in age from 18 to 56. In one experiment, couples kept a diary of their sleep patterns and how the quality of their sleep affected their appreciation of their partner.

In the other experiment, couples were videotaped as they did problem-solving tasks. People who had slept poorly the previous night showed less appreciation for their partner, the investigators found.

Overall, the findings suggest that poor sleep might make it harder for people to count their blessings and value their partners, said study investigator and UC Berkeley psychologist Amie Gordon.

“Poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritize our own needs over our partner’s,” she said in a university news release.

What can you do?

“Make sure to say ‘thanks’ when your partner does something nice,” Gordon suggested. “Let them know you appreciate them.”

- Tired Couples May Take Each Other For Granted, HealthDay News, January 23, 2013.

3. Most pundits would say that singing sensation Chris Brown is his own worst enemy. Yet the beleaguered R&B star, who has been behind bars since 14 Mar and was freed in the early hours of yesterday morning seemed ready to count his blessings and set his life straight. Instead of going out partying, he celebrated his new-found freedom by taking to his page on Monday, admitting he was, “Humbled and Blessed.”

The singer was jailed earlier this year following his dismissal from a court-ordered rehab stint for bad behaviour, which was part of a probation violation case stemming from his 2009 assault conviction for attacking ex-girlfriend, super-star Rihanna. Ironically, just as Chris was trading in his trademark jailsuit for something more civilian-friendly, always fashionable Riri was being honoured with a Fashion Icon award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Chris was originally facing a year behind bars, but received credit for the time he already spent in rehab and in custody. Officials have yet to reveal the reason for Brown’s early release.

Yet the 25 year old shouldn’t get too comfy as a free man; he is still facing an assault trial in Washington, D.C. over allegations he attacked a man during an unprovoked altercation in October last year.

- Chris Brown Finally Counts His Blessings,, June 3, 2014.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:陈丹妮)

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