Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 26, 2019 but the power of gratitude still remains relevant.
Today started out much like a normal day. I woke up. Ate breakfast. Got ready for work. Arriving at work, I encountered a lot of negativity. Frustration from customers. Lack of understanding from co-workers. Dullness, dreariness, pessimism besieged me.
My ego weakened and trust damaged I felt like giving up. Something provoked me to pause. Wait. Think it through. To fight back.
Gratitude caused me to push back against the negativity. Pulling out a post-it notes I quickly jotted a ton of things (ability to write, family, life, job, pens, calculator). Most of these were blessings immediately in front of me. I soon relearned that I have much to be thankful.
Stopping to reflect on my blessings put distance between myself and the negativity. Recognizing all the things large and small I have to be grateful for proved to be the turning point in my day.
Gratitude is the greatest weapon to defeat negativity. If you are encountering pessimism daily, at work or home, please don’t despair. Think about the blessings in your life great and small. Thanksgiving will help dispel the storm.
Holy Week began with the incredible and devastating news of Paris’ historic Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed inflames. In 2008, I had the privilege to see the beautiful church on a college trip to Europe. I checked social media for updates throughout the day. As a Catholic and lover of history, this disaster hit me particularly hard. Thankfully, the Blessed Sacrament and all occupants of the cathedral where safely evacuated. Additionally, precious relics, such as the crown of thorns, were saved as well.
Church in Chaos?
The fire consuming Notre Dame certainly symbolizes the havoc of the Catholic Church’s current state of affairs. Sometimes tragedy in the long-run acts as a impetus for change— change for the better. Pessimism pervades our 21st century culture. Sex abuse scandals, ‘mass’ exoduses of Catholics away from the Mass, and indifference cause despair to set in. Despair, though, is the most sinister weapon of the Enemy. Prowling about the world, he plants seeds of doubts and waters them with the seven deadly sins. How can we stop the flames of the Devil? The antidote is to douse those flames with an ocean of gratitude.
Gratitude is the defining hallmark of Catholicism. The Sacrament of the Eucharist actually means thanksgiving. According to St. Pope John Paul II in his General Audience on October 11th, 2000, “As the term itself originally says in Greek, Eucharist means “thanksgiving”; in it the Son of God unites redeemed humanity to himself in a hymn of thanksgiving and praise.” Literally, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, (cf CCC 13747) the Eucharist is a most best remedy against the poison of despair. Together with the celebration of thanksgiving for the gift of Jesus during the Mass, I am going to discuss three additional reasons why gratitude is the best attitude for our world in 2019.
Its Free and Freeing
The days that I am most at peace and feel a sense of liberation directly coincide with the days I focus on being thankful. Some things in life cannot be controlled by us. This is a fact I struggle with mightily! This power struggle with reality often causes a callous and unappreciative mentality. Because of ingratitude, I get locked in a self-imposed prison of bitterness and despair. Limitations set in. Engagement with others diminishes.
The key to unlocking this prison is thankfulness. American author Maya Angelou wrote, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Gratitude provides us the ability to see the world not as “you vs. them”. Gratitude provides the equation for true freedom— “you +them=us. Humility and thankfulness lead to unity. Freedom results and best of all gratitude is absolutely free— you just have to ask God for the gift to be humble enough to receive gratitude!
Closely connected with the freeing quality of gratitude is the ability of thankfulness in defending against negativity. According to Mabel Yiu in the article Overcoming negativity by practicing gratitude, “Practicing gratitude—while a learned practice—can help us pivot from our brain’s hardwiring for negativity, and help us to see the positive things we often overlook.” Ingratitude shortens our gaze and limits it downward. Thankfulness extends our purview and allows us to better recognize situations in their context. Gratitude allows us to defend properly against negativity in the present and future!
I have learned that the times I put on the armor of a “grateful mindset” that negativity bounces off me with little effect. After receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist, I am the most equipped to fend off the negativity during the week.
Infuses You with Energy
When asked about where he mentality and physical stamina originate from, Belarusian American entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, plainly declared, “My energy, every single ounce of it, comes from gratitude.” He goes on to discuss his upbringing and living in Communist Russia as primary factors for shaping his attitude of gratitude. Viewing everything as a pure gift, simply being thankful for existence transforms a person—energy flows through you. I know this because I have experienced days where I ask the Holy Spirit for gratitude and focusing on the gifts in my life, a weight is lifted off.
Without the weight of entitlement, self-imposed unrealistic expectations weighing me down I experience pure energy to live life purely. Admitting, these days are in the vast minority of my life. Sadly, I have caved into the pressures of the world too often—allowing ingratitude and spite to rule my days. Those days of gratitude, flickers of hope-infused energy point to a higher reality. Gratitude for the gift of life and hope for eternal life ultimately will win out. St. Gianna Beretta Molla said, “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.” Terrible tragedies will always occur in this world. You will suffer throughout this life, but what will always help you in 2019 (and beyond!) will adopting an attitude of gratitude.
Author Chris Tiegreen wrote, “Thankfulness is difficult to express when one starts with an attitude of entitlement.” From my experience, I noticed that whenever people claim to deserve everything– I am including myself as the prime perpetrator of this attitude— rarely do things work out. Since my family starting praying the Rosary on a nightly basis, my attitude and approach to situations outside my control began to change.
After several months in a row where I went into work with high expectations, I quickly discovered rarely did the reality match my ideals. Anger, resentment, frustration and negativity came forth from my unrealistic anticipations. Falsely equating high expectations with my desire to be entitled to high production metrics and quality scores caused me to dive into a den of despair. Oftentimes, I came home from work with these feelings still churning inside me. Lacking patience, I lashed out at my family whenever the kids made messes or my wife made excessive requests for help. I sought to control all facets at home in hopes to gain a sense of control in the workplace. Ironically, by expecting everything oftentimes I gain nothing but disappointment and distress.
With my wife being pregnant with our rainbow baby, we viewed this child as a total and completely free gift from God. Moving away from the entitlement mindset, I am able to embrace, ever so slowly, this gift of the sustained and healthy pregnancy. St. Therese of Liseux declared, “I understood that love comprises all vocations – that love is everything, and because it is eternal, embraces all times and places.” Without love all else in life ultimately is moot. Humanity truly deserves nothing. Nevertheless, the Creator of the Universe granted life and even became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Since my move away from my selfish, entitled, greedy mindset, I seek to thank God for the blessings in my life. I ask the Holy Spirit for the graces to continue with this mindset and I pray for you to encounter the same joy that gratitude brings as well!
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” –G.K. Chesterton
“Gratitude comes naturally when you take so much responsibility that you expect nothing except what you’ve earned through hard intelligent work and always see where you can improve.” –Anonymous