Gratefulness: Happiness' Prerequisite
As I look around our world right now, I see a great deal of the following: fear, anger, pain, frustration, rage, jealousy, aggression, pride, vanity, arrogance, hatred, and the list goes on.
Here's what I'm hardly seeing at all: humility, moral courage, faith, hope, love (real love, which isn't some vague feeling or political slogan, but genuinely willing the good of another and making real sacrifices for them), longsuffering, endurance, joy, peace, patience, and gratitude.
What I'm deeply concerned about these days is that a great many of my brothers and sisters, here and around the world, are operating on a dangerous and inevitably disappointing
false premise. Lots of folks seem to think that happiness, fulfillment, and real harmony are prerequisites for gratitude, thanksgiving, peace. In other words, when I/we get what we want and deserve, we'll finally be happy. But that's exactly backwards, not just from a Catholic Christian perspective, but increasingly from the perspective of psychology (see the link at the very bottom for one such study).
As Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine originally from Austria, points out in his work, including the two videos I'm posting below, GRATITUDE IS A PREREQUISITE FOR HAPPINESS. Put another way, you will never be truly fulfilled, at peace, happy and in harmony until you first embrace an "attitude of gratitude". Thankfulness, grateful appreciation for the incomprehensible gift of this life, must come first. As long as you are running around with bitterness and hostility in your heart and mind, you will never be happy.
Why is this true? It's because we are all sinners. Our human nature is NOT what God originally made it to be. Through sin we have distorted it, turned it on its head, and we've been running around upside down and inside out ever since Eden. One of the most fundamental results of this reality is that we are NOT fulfilled and happy by getting all the stuff we want. In fact, the more we get, the more we want! Envy rules everything these days it seems to me. I can't be happy until someone who has wronged me suffers and has what he or she has taken away. Make no mistake, envy comes from the absolute pit of hell, and I think it's the most destructive force on earth.
Let's try something completely different, shall we? Let's refuse the fallen world's template for once. Let's turn off MSNBC, CNN, and Fox. Let's refuse the extremes and embrace REALITY, brothers and sisters. Let's all take a deep breath and open our eyes, look up and out (not only inward and down), and intentionally be grateful for even being here in the first place. Actually look at a piece of Renaissance art and be open to what is there. Sit down without a phone and listen to a beautiful piece of music. Go on a walk and look at trees - I mean really look at them. Read a book you loved when you were a kid all over again. Eat some cheesecake (slowly if you can!) and really pay attention to why it's so amazing. Try to catch a butterfly with your children in the back yard. Watch a movie you really enjoy for no particular reason. If you're over 21, grab a beer and watch the sunset over the lake. Whoever you are, do yourself and everyone you know a favor by sitting in absolute silence (on purpose) for fifteen minutes.
None of this is trivial or escapist. Don't believe anyone who tells you it is - they're just wrong, and they need to do these things at least as much as you do. These kinds of things are all part of the antidote to everything you're angry about. Mark my words, nothing significant will change until more of us live like this, and everything will change for the better if we do.
SOME LINKS FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
Beautiful reflection on how to live a grateful day from Brother David
Brother David's TED talk (2013)
Interesting article regarding a study on gratitude's role in happiness and overall wellbeing: https://bit.ly/2UZIgIj