Thanksgiving: Embracing Genuine Gratitude
- Thursday, November 18, 2004
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, you may be expecting a warm and fuzzy, feel-good essay with the words "attitude" and "gratitude" cleverly joined as in gratitude attitude or the ever popular attitude of gratitude. 'Tis the season.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not negative on gratitude. What really bugs me, though, is when people express their gratitude one day late in November and then return to their self-centered, dissatisfied, hopeless and pathetic outlook on life the other 364 days.
Gratitude is more than an annual ritual performed hastily before diving into the Thanksgiving meal. It's more than a holiday decoration, more than a snappy word that rhymes with "attitude." Of all the human emotions, gratitude is the most powerful. So powerful is gratitude, it can obliterate fear, hopelessness and doubt. Gratitude can heal a broken heart, slow the aging process and restore broken relationships. Gratitude creates hope and hope brings joy. It is in joy, not fear, that we find strength.
Greed is the enemy
Never before in the history of our country has so much meant so little to so many. The easy availability of credit that allows us to live beyond our means has enabled greed to creep into every area of our lives. Some call the affliction affluenza: An unhappy condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. The more we have the more we want. The more we want the more it takes to feel satisfied. The more credit we accept the further into debt we slip. The more we have the greedier we become and the more we suffer from possession overload. We let what we lack eclipse any feelings of gratitude for what we already have.
Affluenza in its advanced stages leads to stress. And stress leads to the break-down of mental and physical health.
Gratitude is the antidote
Gratitude, the conscious and heartfelt expression of appreciation and thankfulness is the number one best antidote for dissatisfaction. Greed says I must have more; gratitude counters with I have more than enough. Greed says My life is pathetic; gratitude says I am so blessed. Greed steals joy; gratitude restores it.
To develop gratitude you need to talk to yourself and regularly write your thoughts. The idea is to begin to see all of life, even the difficult times, as challenges, opportunities and blessings. You may also find it helpful to "reframe" a situation-to choose to see it from a new perspective.
Reframing can be difficult but is especially important when misfortune strikes. If you wreck your car, that is unfortunate. Still, it means you're alive and that is something for which to be grateful. And you get bonus blessings if no one was hurt, you have a good insurance policy or the car wasn't totaled.
Authentic and heartfelt gratitude can hush up insatiable desires and negative attitudes. For instance you can hate your job, hate the boss, hate the people, hate the commute and hate the work. Or you can be genuinely grateful that you have a job today. You can learn to appreciate everything about that job, even the distasteful aspects because they build your character, tolerance and compassion. No matter what the situation, you choose your focus. If you choose fear and anger, expect depression and misery. If you choose to respond with a grateful heart, expect hope, satisfaction and joy. Yes joy, even in the midst of adversity.
Giving is the action
Want to really pull the plug on your greed? Become a giver. Giving away some of what is most precious to you-your money-is the ultimate thank-you note. Giving opens the door to God's blessings and your eyes to see the big picture. It allows us to view the world through new eyes of compassion. Giving is an outward expression of a personal affirmation that no matter how bleak your situation may appear, you really do have enough.
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