A guy told me yesterday that he was jealous of me. Not in the traditional sense of the word, like he didn’t want me talking to other guys. Lord knows, I’ve had enough of that in my life.
No, this guy said he was jealous of me because I “treasure things up” in my heart. We had been at a retreat where a scripture was read about Mary, the mother of Jesus, treasuring and pondering things in her heart.
“You obviously live life in the present moment and pay attention and embrace it,” he said. “You treasure and ponder what’s happening in your life.”
Well, being the imperfect person that I am, my first response was muddied with pride, as if somehow I had something to do with this. I tried to look all humble, while thinking “Yeah, he’s right; I am pretty cool.”
Then reality tapped me on the shoulder, and I remembered that this gift of mine is truly just that — a gift. What he was talking about, though he didn’t name it, was gratitude. I’ve always had it, but I realized the extent of it a few years ago when I was getting out of the car and cracked my head on the door. It hurt like hell, and my first response – really – was to say to myself, “Thank God I have a skull.”
I was born with the gift of gratitude, which can’t help but lead to joy. Could there be a better gift?
It’s hard for me to remember that not everyone is like this. I can be impatient with people who tend to look at the dark side or who complain about their woeful lot in life. I lack compassion in this area. I often think, “Just get over it. Why can’t you look at the bright side?” Does that sound mean-spirited? Sorry. I said I was grateful, not necessarily nice.
What Do You Bring to the Table?
Thanksgiving week is a good time to take a look at the gifts you’ve been given — not just the abundant food and roof-over-your-head type of gifts, but your inner gifts. The stuff you’re made of.
What “default traits” are you grateful for? Do you have inner gifts you were born with or that you have learned or cultivated?
I have friends who laugh easily. People naturally want to be around them. I have a friend who listens really intently. People seek her out for counsel and comfort. Another friend is endlessly curious. She reads voraciously and loves to talk about just about anything. She exudes enthusiasm and energy. I have another friend who always sees both sides of a situation. She’s the type who says, “Well, think of it this way…” and then you feel guilty for being judgmental. I think you might call that the gift of mercy. And what about the people who have the gift of hospitality? They just open their homes to you spontaneously. What a gift!
Maybe you have the gift of dignity, which I wrote about recently — we need more examples of people who value themselves and treat themselves with respect. Same with animals and the planet – do you have a respect for creation that can help others see the sacred all around them? Share that gift; the world sorely needs it!
Four Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
My gift is gratitude, so I’ll share that gift with you for Thanksgiving. Here are four things you can do to cultivate gratitude in your own life:
- See above. What do you bring to the table? What are your inner gifts? Make a list of all the parts of your character that you like. This is your list of building materials, the things that when cultivated will help you be grateful for who you are. Reflect on these assets — treasure them in your heart.
“I’m learning to treat myself as if I am valuable. I find that when I practice long enough, I begin to believe it.” Anonymous
- Make a nightly gratitude list. It doesn’t have to be long. Just make a list of all the things that come to mind for which you are grateful on that particular day. Smells, meals, a smile from a stranger. I’m willing to bet that if you do this every day for a week, you will be a happier person. You’ll start looking for things to be grateful for throughout the day.
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” Meister Eckhart
- If you find yourself obsessing about something negative or troublesome, as we all do from time to time, ask yourself, “how important is it?” Really. In the big scheme of things. Practice letting go of the thoughts and consciously substituting grateful and positive thoughts.
“That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change. But that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” Chinese proverb
- Are you harboring resentment? I’ve heard it said that resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Try looking at the narrative you’ve constructed about that person or situation. How might you look at it differently? Can you consider how that resentment might be an opportunity for you to grow spiritually or challenge yourself to break old assumptions or patterns? What are you learning from the situation, where is the hidden gift in the mire?
“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.” Richard Bach