Updated: Aug 24, 2019
By Glyndora Condon MS MFT LPC; Learning how to be grateful again.
By Glyndora Condon MS MFT LPC
In today's culture I often will read something that I believe is a positive post. Someone has done something kind for another; has posted a challenge of their life that they have been overcoming; the economy is growing with many over a million of people now rejoining the work force; that corporations are returning to the USA, that the water is being cleaned up, that the USA is becoming respected abroad once again; and many other similar "good news" that we should be grateful for, praising those who are instrumental in the good actions that are occurring; yet to my dismay-as I read the comments underneath-there will be comments of the contrary. Someone should have done more, or why did they not do something other, or this is a lie, or it is about time, with the focus on anything but the positive. Why do we see the negatives as we ignore the positives? Why do we prioritize anything other than what others are achieving? Did you know that it takes an average of 20 positive actions (comments, behaviors) to undo one negative?
There have been occasions when I made a point to go and visit family, a shut-in, to bring food to the sick; to give a gift, help pay one's debts, invite someone over to my home; visit at the hospital, and/or other acts of simple grace. Yet while within the occasion, the person who I wanted to love or to prioritize would focus on something negative. I called at the wrong time which was not appreciated; I was not dressed to par; they did not like the soup or dish; my house was a mess after I had worked all week; The person used their time pointing out to all of the flowers and gifts sent to them and brought to them-as if disappointed that I only visited; I should have forgiven their omission of not reimbursing me for a loan provided and then also let them keep the apartment or item in default- otherwise I am un-Christian. With these negative reactions and rejection of the grace, I would find myself questioning my worthiness, my gift, and my intent. Why else were they so disgruntled and negative?
With these responses then I have actually asked, "Are you coming to visit me or to assess my house keeping?" I also have to make sure that I am not trapped in a manipulative strategy intended to create shame or guilt as others are working their passive aggressive; or other forms of control. When I know that I am doing good with the right heart and not to feel worthy-then I have to risk such rejections but feel good that I did a selfless thing for someone; feeling positive although others may not receive these gifts well. This mindset takes much effort since I have battle social anxiety disorder and fear rejection automatically. Those who seek some negative motive under good behaviors and those who look for negatives in what was not done-instead of appreciating the heart, the effort, and the person; are missing the positive and therefore losing the blessing intended for them.
I too stand convicted for not appreciating so many blessings that have gone by the wayside due to the frequency, which seemed to drive almost an expectation instead of the realization that this is a gift each time, and that I was owed nothing. Sometimes people compare their lives to others and believe them to be less blessed which results in resentment or covetousness.
As I apply the scientific tools to this issue; I realize the need that seek assistance with a more ancient document which speaks upon grumbling vs. thankfulness. Luke 17:11-19 spoke of 10 lepers (most were Jews, but also there was a Samaritan in the mix). Jews looked down upon the Samaritans as unclean and lost people and therefore this parable is applicable to today's issues of racial tension which not only applies to color, but also; differences of gender, religion, intelligence, physical appearance, special needs, age, and many other populations of differences that some feel are less than their own. As we think of this issue-we can remember other scriptures where the "unlikely person" rose to an occasion and served those who thought themselves better. However, today I wish to consider only the construct of thankfulness and positive thinking.
Ten lepers begged for mercy and Jesus healed them. All but one, walked away without a word of gratitude-but, one did return, a Samaritan; who thanked Jesus. We also read of the approximately 2-3 million Israelite people, who were freed of bondage and were being brought to the promised land; yet within only a few verses we hear them grumble of their situation (freedom) while on their journey. A story of "The Grumbling Monk" humorously yet also sadly depicts our thinking. He wanted to become a Monk. He was advised that this would be a 3 year task of much sacrifice to which he agreed; and he could only utter 2 words each year of those 3 years. The first year his two words were: bed hard. The second 2 years then he said, food bad; so the third year he said, I quit. He only seems to see the negative instead of the opportunity to listen, to observe, to learn.
Thankfulness takes intentional effort. Psalms 103:2 states for us to forget none of his/her benefits. Other verses that also speak about God's wish for us to be grateful are: Psalms 97:12, 77:12, 95:2, 100:4, and Thessalonians speaks of the need for us to be grateful in everything; and give thanks (the good, and the bad). Some of us mutter, what do I have to be thankful for? Well, let us ponder this question.
We are to be thankful for Christ who died on the cross to forgive us of our sins which is founded in 2 Cor. 9:15. Did you wake this morning? Were you able to see when you opened your eyes? Could you hear the birds singing outside? Did you sleep in a bed within shelter? Did you have at least one meal today? Did you have clothing to wear? Is there anyone who loves you on earth? Are you in fairly good health today? Have you had good health most of your life? Are you able to walk? Reach? Hug? Eat? If so then aren't we blessed? While comparing ourselves to others-are any others worse off than us? Should we be comparing ourselves, or should we be focused on us and helping others who have less than us? God is pleased with our thankfulness (Luke 17:15).
To lift us from anxiety, stress, resentment, bitterness, and other negative moods we must identify the distortions of thoughts and re-frame our thoughts to more positive thoughts. Scripture tells us to cultivate a thankful spirit. Therefore in addition to the scientific tools that we would employ in counseling we would also use an ad-junction of:
Daily prayer the minute that you are waking to thank God for you many blessings.
Listing all of your blessings quarterly so as to keep abreast of the new ones you that you find along your journey.
Create some project that you can display so that you have visual reminders of those blessings.
As a friend to help hold you accountable to thank God and others for their gifts.
Visit and serve those who are less fortunate: The widows, the homeless, those in prison, the sick, the poor, the blind, the deaf, the grieving, and other.
Be in the Word.
Let your self talk include how richly you have been blessed, and sing praise.
If we look for negatives-then we will see the negatives since these are many and difficult to forget. If we seek positives then we must be purposeful and intentional in what we are prioritizing and gleaning from our world. We must challenge our distortion of thought, release the need to manipulate others, and have courage to trust in our heart. Perhaps others will follow our lead as we model a positive resolution.