Cultivating a Thankful disposition of mind and heart.
“We live in a culture that provides us many opportunities for easily losing our perspective on the blessings of life! As Christians, living a life rooted in gratitude is essential to grow in our faith. Recently, you might have caught on that I think Gratitude is essential to live a happy life! In almost every book I have written it has been a central topic. Why is it so important? For there are a lot of miserable people who have plenty of blessings but can’t appreciate it at all! And even worse, we live in a culture where children are spoiled not grateful for anything. Saying ‘thank you to God’ is a great place to start when growing in gratitude. First, we thank God, and next, we thank others.
In my recent interviews on this topic, I spoke about how we must first work on our heart and next on our actions. When we are thankful to God for life, we can begin to see and appreciate the small gifts as well, like ‘our daily blessings.’ Do you pray and thank God for your blessings? Acknowledge or write down your blessings? Share your blessings with others? The real truth is, gratitude is a virtue that must be cultivated, and ingratitude is a disease that prevents us from being happy.
Are you jealous?
For many of us, it is easy to forget how God provides if we are too focused on others’ blessings. For example, the internet provides INSTANT results. When we plug into the internet, we need to be well aware of our personal pitfalls that lead to sin, such as being jealous of others. For some of us, it is easy to fall into the temptation to be jealous quickly and find ourselves coveting/desiring/wanting/believing we should have… everything under the sun, including our neighbor’s life!
Now, more than ever before, thanks to social media, we can view every single blessing of others in a flash—from vacations, other people’s children, family life, and even what others are cooking or eating out for dinner, and moments of great success. It is easy in a few short minutes to lose our grounding and perspective, especially when we are around our area of temptation. We want what they have so much that we forget what we have! Remember, life isn’t perfect on the other side of the screen; instead, learn to cultivate the virtue of gratitude so you can discover true Christian joy in the life the Lord has provided!
Simple Steps to Grow in Gratitude During this Holiday Season:
- Prayer impacts our Perspective! If you are struggling with being grateful, bring this matter to prayer! Ask the Lord for more graces to accept each moment of your life and overcome what is holding you back from being grateful! Along with Prayer, read Scripture daily, especially any letter written by St. Paul, so that you gain a new perspective on Christian suffering and true happiness!
- Surround yourself with people who are grateful for life. It is an important virtue and flows from humility. “If souls are humble, they will be moved to give thanks,” said St. Teresa of Avila. Find friends who support you and help you grow closer to Christ. When we invest in spiritual friendships, we can better appreciate all the Lord is doing in our life and maybe even notice a blessing we never appreciated before!
- Too Much Materialism fuels our ingratitude. Often, the more we get, leads to the more we want. Materialism leads to the “give-me” attitude where stuff fills the void of our heart. It is important to focus on the non-material world where we share our thanks with words of affirmation, kind deeds, and prayers of thanksgiving. This is especially true when raising children; we need not always “reward” them but affirm them and their dignity as children of God. Consider praying before making a big purchase or spontaneous ones… decide, will this item bring me joy? Will it end up in the trash can in a week? Reward with experiences, be purposeful in how you express your love for others, and avoid the trap that materialism leads to happiness. Consider being generous but not just “giving to give.”
- A major obstacle to being grateful or growing in this virtue is refusing to forgive. When we refuse to forgive, it leads us to be hard-hearted. Consider forgiving those who have hurt you. When we seek to strengthen our relationships with others, we grow closer to Christ. Consider going to Confession and free yourself of the sins of unforgiveness, jealousy, and the lack of charity towards others! Maybe we are not grateful because we are still holding a large grudge against someone else, and this is taking up a lot of our time and energy.
- Worry and anxiety can also lead us away from being grateful. There is a direct link between screen time and anxiety, especially with our teens. In Philippians 4:6-7, “Have no anxiety at all,” but instead, it encourages us to “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts.” If we are anxious and stressed out, let us take a breather and unplug, detach, and spend some time in nature or go to adoration for some restful quiet.
Let us close with these powerful words by St. John Paul II, “Remember the past with gratitude. Live the present with enthusiasm. Look forward to the future with confidence.” When we look to the past with gratitude, it not only creates beautiful memories but helps us navigate our life.”