HomeSpiritualityThe Grace of a Cheerful Heart

The Grace of a Cheerful Heart

cheerful woman wearing floppy hat and glasses - photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels

My sister has a saying I’ve heard her holler at any of her four children when they are moping or grumbling or just being absolute pills: “Go spread your seeds of discontent somewhere else!”

I love when she says this. I think she may have picked up the saying from our great-grandmother, now long gone, who had 12 children. Great-Grandma Duncan knew how a grumpy attitude could spread like wildfire through her children.

But it isn’t just for children that I like this saying; it is a good reminder for me. I can get cranky. It is in hindsight that I can see how I have sometimes walked into my home, scattering my seeds of discontent thoughtlessly to my youngest in the kitchen and then to my oldest in the front room. My husband watches as I move through the house like a tornado until there are children picking on each other, stomping up and down the stairs, and I know I have succeeded in planting my seeds of discontent that have now taken root.

The Book of Proverbs says, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” (17:22) Sometimes I am better at being the downcast spirit. And yet, I do know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a cheerful heart.

My youngest has a cheerful heart. When he was a toddler, two of his nicknames were Cheerful Chap and Jolly Old Soul. To him everything is wonder and amazement and fascinating. Now at 12, he is a fountain of facts: “Mommy, did you know a shark is the only known fish that can blink with both eyes?” Or, “Mommy, did you know most people fall asleep in seven minutes?”

He is always Johnny-on-the-spot whenever any of us needs a helper. Take out the trash? He’s got it. Bring up the laundry from the dryer? No problem!

And I begin to notice how this cheerfulness is a gift. A grace. For that is what grace means, a gift, something freely offered. Proverbs says, “A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance.” (15:13) My son’s cheerful countenance is simply part of who he is.

I’m not as easily cheerful. When I am not, I know it is because my heart, the core of my being, is not centered on Jesus. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8) When I am grouchy, I need to reorient my heart with Christ’s. When my inner orientation is focused on Christ, not on the circumstances swirling around me, my outward countenance reflects this.

Whenever I feel grumpiness, which is a form of unfocus, I return to the Examen. Lately, I enjoy praying the Examen at the start of my day instead of the end. I go over the past day. Where was God present? And where did my emotions take over? The Examen helps me to reorient my heart back to Jesus as I start my day.

I think it might be working. As I prayed through this morning and reviewed my previous day, I was reminded of a moment with a new acquaintance at the gym. When we introduced ourselves, she said to me, “I always appreciate how you have a smile ready for me each morning.”

May my cheerful heart be a gift to her. A grace.

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.

Shemaiah Gonzalez
Shemaiah Gonzalez
Shemaiah Gonzalez is a freelance writer who holds a B.A. in English Literature and a M.A. in Intercultural Ministry. She thrives on moments where storytelling, art, and faith collide. Published on Busted Halo and America Magazine among others, she is obsessed with being well-rounded as she jumps from Victorian lit to Kendrick Lamar, from the homeless shelter to the cocktail party. A Los Angeles native, she now lives in Seattle with her husband and their two sons.


  1. Loved your suggestion about praying the examen in the morning. I have tried praying it at night with the audio instruction of Jim Martin SJ. He would not be pleased that I very often fall asleep. Will try in the am.

  2. I have just read this inspiring story and see myself in much of what you have said about letting my “grumpies” spoil a perfectly good day!! God is good and I am becoming more and more aware of just how good and loving He is by praying the Examen. Thank you

  3. Thank you for the affirmation regarding attitude, Shemaiah. It was also good to hear of your experience with the Examen in the morning. I have long preferred the morning timeframe rather than the evening. I think it is because I examine all day so much that I simply don’t want to go there as the last part of the day; starting fresh the next day with a review and moving into gratitude and anticipation of the day ahead, works well for me. I am glad that you have found freshness in it as well!

  4. Thanks. For stock-taking, reorientation, and a reconstruction – the Examen has it all. Saint Ignatius of Loyola – Pray for us.

  5. Thanks for your sharing on JOY which stirs my heart. Glad to meet you as I too am a Freelance Writer. Daphne Stockman

  6. I always love what you have to say, Shemaiah! This was a great message. Thank you! When friends have commented that I’m always smiling, I say that it looks better on me than a frown! Now i need to remember to make sure it’s because I have a cheerful heart as well.


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