I believe nothing changes—until you say Thank You.
On the one hand, I believe life is a far-sighted venture that is often approached with near-sighted vision, and is consequently a set-up for failure and pain. On the other, I believe gratefulness is the corrective lens that allows us to see life as an exciting adventure regardless of circumstance.
At least that’s true for me. I always thought of myself as content–even optimistic. But I recently looked back on my life and noticed a tendency to think that my lot was getting more difficult, less manageable, and increasingly unfair. No matter what job—the last one was easier. The more things I possessed—the more frustrating the responsibilities. The more friends I made—the more misunderstandings cropped up. In short, the more I had, the less content I was.
Then—not too long ago—on a day I was feeling particularly exhausted, insane, and misunderstood—I gave up. I gave up my demand for absolute comfort; for uninterrupted happiness; and for unchallenged friendships—and I simply said Thank You.
In that instant everything changed. With those words I began to see my inventory of blessings, and the Thank Yous turned from perfunctory to exuberant.
Beyond seeing anew all the things I possessed, I saw all that I had learned through my struggles—all that I never would have learned otherwise. I saw that the surfacing of my uglier traits allowed me to work on them and get them out of the way. I saw that failing to understand people taught me grace for when they do not understand me. I saw that life was getting fuller and richer and more meaningful with each new obstacle overcome.
Sometimes—green as I am in the art of gratefulness—I am tempted to believe that this new way of seeing is a game in which the emphasis is on not wishing for that which I did not get, do not have, or might never experience. In this game, gratefulness is the thief of my desires.
But I am learning that saying Thank You for all things is a way of opening my eyes to the feast that is set before me. I believe that a requiring spirit is the thief, and gratefulness is the kind stranger who finds what has been stolen and brings it all back.
And the good news is that it snowballs: the more I say Thank You, the better my eyesight, the more I see that I have.
Of course, I still know life will often be painful, but I believe gratefulness has allowed me to exchange fear, insecurity, and insanity for a spirit of excitement.
In fact, in Thanking God for all things, I believe I am able to exchange my entire life—past and future—for a much better one.
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