Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in the United States.
… and to those in other countries, as well. After all, even if it isn’t your holiday, it’s never inappropriate to adopt, as the saying goes, an “attitude of gratitude,” being thankful for all we’ve received in life.
Three questions to consider this week:
Examining the word “gratitude” and its meaning more closely, we realize that this isn’t the case. To be truly grateful, thought is not enough. Gratitude is, in fact, a mode of action – being willing and ready to return kindness, and doing it. In other words, talk is cheap. Gratitude requires demonstration.
Question 2: For what are you grateful? Most would say that they are grateful for the blessings they’ve received in life. The good things. And why not? We celebrate our abundance, our successes, the people who we love (and love us, which is really great). Our dualistic minds default to placing all the events, people and circumstances we experience into two columns, the winners and losers, pros and cons, the good and the bad. And, quite naturally, we proclaim our gratitude for the half of the list that highlights our winners, our pros, our victories.
If that’s the case, what are we supposed to do with the stuff that didn’t go well in our lives? What about the pain, the frustration, the disappointments, the hardships we have faced or are facing right now? Should we just ignore those, at least for this week? After all, it is Thanksgiving.
Let me present a radical thought. We should be grateful and give thanks for all of it. Everything. The totality of our lives’ experience … even the really crappy stuff. Why? Because your life is not a highlights’ reel. It is an epic mini-series with dramatic twists, tragic struggles, brilliant triumphs, and hilarious diversions. The end product of all of it becomes you – your character, your beliefs, your capabilities, your influence upon others, and your contributions to your world.
Gratitude for the good stuff is not sufficient. We must express, through action, that we are truly thankful for all the lessons and experiences, even those we cannot comprehend.
In Alcoholics Anonymous there is an expression of being a “grateful alcoholic.” This counterintuitive idea recognizes the reality that without facing the difficult challenge of alcoholism, manifested often in painful life circumstances, and damaged relationships, one would never undertake the course of change necessary to improve. And yet it takes work, and a new perspective that transcends not only the challenge or the pain, but the “self,” entirely.
This brings me to the Question 3: To what or whom are you grateful? Thanksgiving is, from its founding and at its essence, a spiritual occasion – giving thanks to God for all that we face, enjoy, and endure. It is a simple, serene and spiritual recognition, which often gets drowned out in the noise of the Black Friday advertisements, elaborate preparations, bountiful feasts, and stressful travels. As you enjoy (or endure) these transient experiences, please take time to pause, keep it simple, and express your thanks: Through inward thought, through outward action, for good and bad, and with spiritual recognition to the mysterious and beautiful source of everything, which defies our understanding.