Learning to Be Grateful

Yesterday was, for me as for everyone else, a mixture of good and bad. Towards evening, as I did a quick check of our social media accounts, a little worm of envy and discontent began to surface. How much I’d like to be able to go for a walk, but I can’t because of my illness; wouldn’t it be nice to have a brief holiday and enjoy new scenes, but it’s out of the question; what wouldn’t I give to be able to clear my in-tray or get people to respond to requests, but it’s not going to happen. You know the kind of thing that occurs when we focus on ourselves and can compile your own list of ‘if onlys’. At bottom, they are all about ourselves and what’s ‘wrong’ or missing in our life, even when we try to convince ourselves that we are being selfless and desiring some good for another. Parents know only too well how easy it is to fall into the trap of wanting to influence their children’s decisions, and it is not unknown for those who don’t have children to think they have the solution to all the world’s problems. (Have a look at Twitter if you don’t believe me.) It is not enough, however, to be aware of the dangers: we have to do something about them.

Last night I decided to take myself in hand and think about some of the good things that had happened during the day. I shared some of them on Twitter and was heartened by the response of others. Some who replied I know to be very ill or living in difficult circumstances, but they were still acknowledging what was good in their lives and giving thanks. Learning to be grateful in a culture that often seems selfish and self-absorbed isn’t easy, but it is essential. The most important act of a Christian society is eucharist, giving thanks, but how often we dissociate that from our everyday lives. Perhaps, when we examine our conscience at night, we should not only ask ourselves where our desire has been, where we have failed or sinned, but also where we have received grace, where we have reason to be grateful. We might be surprised by the results.

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8 thoughts on “Learning to Be Grateful”

  1. I am thankful for your presence online and your posts! Something happened unexpected yesterday and when I started to fail in how I responded, I remembered what good things happened in morning and thanked God. I had to let go of what I had no control over. I was reminded not to let joy given to me earlier in day as it would dissipate if I let my failure continue. Praying for resolution and God’s help today.

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  2. Thank you for this. Reading in the early a.m. trying to get my school-avoiding child up and out of bed. Thinking now about all what I have to be grateful about and it is focusing my thoughts on what in my life is a miracle.

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  3. A very timely reminder Sister – thank you. I have had shingles these past four weeks and it is very miserable, painful and lowering. Like you I have been dwelling on the things I couldn’t do – go for a walk outdoors without coming over all wobbly and faint; take up again my new-found enjoyment of cold-water swimming to name but two… and I even caught myself thinking how sad not to have enough energy to do the mending and ironing (!) – my beloved brother-in-law meanwhile has recently had pancreatic cancer diagnosed and the news at the beginning of this week was pretty grim. However today he is responding well after surgery last Thursday; catheters and drains are being withdrawn and shortened respectively; tomorrow he may even be allowed to try to eat something approaching solid food! We are all so grateful for this chink of light. And thank you too for reminding me to stop dwelling on what’s not right but to look up and see the healing around us.

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      • Gosh, Sister, that sounds terrible – to paraphrase Lady B from Wilde’s The Importance of Being E[a]rnest… to have it once is unfortunate but to have it twice smacks of unfairness. The French have a saying “Jamais deux sans trois” but I hope to God they are wrong this time! Thank you for your prayers, I really am very grateful for them.

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  4. I missed your tweet yesterday but I grumbled to my husband about grandson #3 non stop chatter on the way to school. Half an hour. About Minecraft. And then I remembered to feel grateful that I got a hug and he’d taught me all about obsidian.

    But I so feel for you not being able to go out for a walk. Our long treks in the country are what have been a lifeline in the past 18 months and the passing seasons and really learning about the local flora (including street plants) has made me appreciate what’s close at hand so much.
    Lovely blog post. Thank you.

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  5. I think I should be jolly grateful to have found myself recently pregnant, but that’s pretty hard when you’re tired, queasy, and suddenly terrified all the time that something might go wrong! My mother assures me that worry literally never goes away from now on. Wondering what on earth I have done…

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    • I suspect your contradictory emotions will be recognized by every woman who has ever been pregnant. All we can do is pray for you and your child and hope that the distressing aspects of pregnancy — the tiredness, feeling sick, worry, etc — soon give way to unalloyed joy.

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