developed-world Recently, knowing that I work at Compassion, a friend sent me a silly video bemoaning all the difficult problems we face here in the developed world. They include atrocities such as:

  • I can never find the right lid for my Tupperware.
  • The freezer makes my ice cream hard to scoop.
  • There’s some cereal left in the bag, but not enough to fill a bowl.
  • My walk-in closet door is kind of hard to close.
  • The other side of my pillow is not much cooler.

I can especially relate to the last one, as the temperature in my bedroom was roughly 175 degrees last night. Give or take a few degrees.

I do also hate it when I can’t find a lid for any of my entire drawer full of Tupperware. I suspect they are in league with all my left socks.

And my pantry door is hard to close! It takes me roughly two extra seconds to shut each time I get a snack. This guy knows about my problems.

Watching the video, I couldn’t help being reminded of a movie that convicted me many years ago: You’ve Got Mail. Yes, romantic comedies are key to spiritual conviction, so you men should all go watch one with your wives, preferably a circa-1990s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan one.

In the convicting scene, Tom Hanks is trapped in an elevator with several neighbors and his girlfriend. The experience has brought clarity and epiphany to his two neighbors, who vow that they’re going to be better boyfriends or mothers. (My memory is a bit cloudy here, so don’t hold me to that exactly.)

While his neighbors experience this touching moment, Hanks looks over to see his girlfriend rummaging through her purse with great exasperation and annoyance. She shouts at the injustice of the world,

“Where are my Tic Tacs?!”

Though it’s just a romantic comedy, I’ve always found this scene quite convicting. In the grand scheme of the universe, how much of my time is wasted groaning about my “problems?”

I’ve decided to call these problems my “developed-world temper tantrums”:

  • Complaining to my husband about my 78-degree home (OK, so it wasn’t really 175 degrees) as I drink ice water from the fridge and watch a movie on my laptop in bed … while others spend 15 hours in 100+-degree heat working a field for peanuts.
  • Sighing in annoyance when my lawn mower for mowing my pretty green lawn is out of gas … while others are homeless or squatting on others’ land in scrap-metal homes.
  • Slamming the Tupperware drawer after giving up on finding a lid that fits and having to turn to plastic wrap instead (I’m sure you’re far more mature than I and would never do this) … while others don’t have food to store or a fridge to store it in.

I do have real problems, just as you do. But these aren’t them.

How much of our energy is wasted on our developed-world tantrums?

How much of our joy is stolen by the Tic Tacs that hide (admittedly, quite maddeningly) at the bottom of our purses?

I don’t want to be that gal who, I admit, sometimes, somehow, creeps out. So instead I vow to pause each time I feel a developed-world tantrum coming on.

I will pause and thank God for the tire that I have to go flat, the sprinklers that I have to break, the shirt that I have to get a cherry-juice stain on.

I’ll pray that God will give me perspective to have His peace and joy in this world, rather than having it stolen by my “problems.”

And lastly, I’ll pray that God will help and protect those who don’t have all the things I have to break, stain, and complicate my life.

I’ll pray that my attitude of annoyance would be transformed into an attitude of love and compassion for others … who don’t have a pillow with two hot sides.

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  1. Nina
    Aug 1, 2011
    at 5:57 am

    Wish there was some way to REALLY get this message thru to everyone in the developed world. I am so thankful that being a Compassion sponsor has given me a different perspective on my life and ‘things’. Thank you for this article.

  2. Raf
    Aug 1, 2011
    at 6:18 am

    Thanks for sharing this! It was really convicting to me as I had a “tantrum” when our rototiller wouldn’t start a couple of days ago. I was going to use it to till up a part of the garden, and so I had to do it by hand in 90+ degree weather. I complained bitterly in my heart as the sweat poured down my face and thorougly soaked my shirt! Sometimes we complain so much about what God has blessed us with.

    The funny part about this episode is that I finally took the air cleaner off the tiller and sprayed some carburetor cleaner into the throat of the carburetor. It still wouldn’t start after doing this repeatedly. I figured the carburetor would have to be cleaned or replaced. The next day I went out to the shed and guess what: it fired right up! God certainly has a sense of humor and this was a real lesson to me about being thankful for what we have. So many people would be grateful just to have the set of hand tools I wound up using, let alone a wonderful labor saving device like a rototiller.

  3. Aug 1, 2011
    at 9:29 am

    Amber, you are so right about this! It’s so easy to lose perspective. After returning from Uganda a couple weeks ago, I will never take clean water for granted again. And I’m so deeply grateful that we don’t have to use mosquito nets. And, I nearly kissed the paved roads when I returned, not because I was on home soil, but because they were actually paved.

  4. Aug 1, 2011
    at 10:24 am

    Beautiful post, and so true! Thank you for the humor and the honesty!

  5. K-eM
    Aug 1, 2011
    at 2:37 pm

    My developed world tantrums happen at the grocery store when they’ve moved something that I like to get or there is a lady in every aisle who is going right down the middle so no one can pass her. I should just be thankful that I have a grocery store with amazing variety and have the money to afford groceries every week.

    My Mom had a tactic that I try to remember to imitate when I’m tempted to throw a tantrum. We were missionaries and when we’d have to cross the border, it would take hours. My Mom would sit in the Land Cruiser with her hands in her lap while Dad was negotiating. But she wasn’t just sitting quietly, she was praying.

    So when I’m tempted to tantrum, I try to remember to pray. To give thanks for all the abundance that God has given me and to pray he gives abundance to the families of my sponsored kids.

  6. Aug 1, 2011
    at 4:20 pm

    I was looking at photos of drought and famine inflicted Africa online yesterday. The servere barrrenness made me very thankful for the weeds and overgrown grass in my yard. I think I might leave them there a little longer to remind me to be thankful for a green backyard.

    Thanks for a great post. Love the You’ve Got Mail references :)

  7. Aug 1, 2011
    at 9:19 pm

    Yes, absolutely…thank you! I will join you in the “pauses”!

  8. Aug 1, 2011
    at 10:57 pm

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. Each night when I lie down, I give thanks for my nice bed to sleep in and comfortable home with a/c & heat…..and all the other “developed world” pleasures we have been blessed with.

  9. Aug 2, 2011
    at 7:32 am

    Excellent! I have forwarded your article to friends. Wish everyone could realize how forturate we are!!

  10. Michael Patterson
    Aug 3, 2011
    at 1:56 pm

    A very special letter from one of our sponsored children prompted my family to visit her in the Dominican Republic in 2006. I was forever changed by the experience of seeing such beautiful people living in such poverty. On the plane my wife and I discussed how impressed we were with Compassion’s response to the problem. As we discussed what we could do differently to help more children, we heard a raised voice just ahead of us on the plane. An elderly couple who was returning to the U.S. after having visited a resort called Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. He had multiple complaints; the flight attendant had no 7-Up and no pillow for him, and his reading light would not turn on. That was when I became most ashamed of the little things I gripe about.

  11. Emily
    Aug 3, 2011
    at 6:58 pm

    A secondary thought: this is great reminder that whether we’re wealthy or poor, material things alone won’t change us. Only the gospel can, which is why Compassion’s ministry is so fantastic.

  12. Nov 20, 2011
    at 5:49 pm

    This is so true. I often find myself complaining about the little things, when I should be enjoying them.

  13. Linda Bolt
    Apr 2, 2012
    at 8:31 am

    Such a good perspective to keep in mind! I do think more people are becoming aware of the laughability of our “first-world” problems.

    The challenge for me is to KEEP that perspective daily, as I go through my day, confronting my over-grown lush weeds, my multiple faucets in my house that need cleaning, and so on.

    I’m considering printing out photos of the developing world to post by my labor-saving devices, to keep that reminder ever present.

  14. Apr 2, 2012
    at 9:20 pm

    Thanks for your thoughtful, painful reminder of the narrow perspective of our complaining when we have so much for which we could give thanks daily. I recently read a story about the things we take for granted, and I posted it on my blog at http://www.brendazook.weebly.com I think you might find it challenging/thoughtful, and yes, maybe even painful.

  15. Obafunke
    Apr 12, 2012
    at 5:07 am

    Convicting is the word and “spoilt brat” is the other phrase that comes to mind when all is put into perspective. But I also recognise that articles such as this break the wall of ignorance that reinforces the sort of behaviours we are discussing here. We are all so wrapped up in our own lives that we do not take enough time for and cognition of the world out there. And even when we become aware, it could be so easy to look away, convincing ourselves that there is not much one indivudual can do. May God give us discernment and a compassionate heart. This is one of the more impactful articles I have read in recent times and I will be sharing it.

  16. nebbie13
    Apr 18, 2012
    at 11:08 am

    There’s an entire meme floating around the internet called First World Problems. I recommend checking it out for some lols.

  17. Natasha
    Oct 13, 2014
    at 9:00 pm

    Would love to have Amber’s response (or Compassion) on if it is OK to include a few paragraph’ from this blog “Developed-World Tantrums”. I saw it published in the Growing Families Australia newsletter. I am writing an article for our local newspaper (Phillip Island Advertiser) about teaching character traits to our children and would love to include part of this blog. I will of course credit it to Amber.

    • Emily Vanhoutan
      Oct 16, 2014
      at 2:49 pm

      Hello Natasha! Thank you so much for coming to us first with your inquiry :). We appreciate that you want to advocate on behalf of children and you are more than welcome to quote pieces of this post. Although it was written by an employee at Compassion, we ask that you use the following citation: From Amber Van Schooneveld via blog.compassion.com. Please let us know if we can assist you further!

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