Step 3 – Gratitude

The Power of Gratitude

So, you’re upset about something.  You aren’t at peace.  You’ve taken responsibility for feeling upset.  You’ve done the hard, messy work of digging down to see what’s really scaring you and you’ve released it to God.  Now what?  Next comes gratitude.  Gratitude is huge!  Gratitude is enormous!  Gratitude is really, really, really big when it comes to creating contentment.  Are you getting the idea that I think gratitude is important? Gratitude is powerful because it can actually create peace and happiness.  It doesn’t just make you happy.  It doesn’t just bring you joy.  It can literally break up pain and replace it with peace and contentment. Now it’s not a magic bean.  This stuff doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s more like that pot of chili that takes time to reach its yummy tastiness.  Oh you can eat it as soon as it’s heated through.  Heck, you could eat it cold.  It might even taste ok.  But it won’t reach its full yummy potential without time and patience.  That’s gratitude.  It’s a bowl of spicy chili on a cold winter day when the wind is blowing and the snow is flying and the thermometer says 20 below.  It’s harsh outside.  It’s brutal outside.  It could even be fatal outside.  But inside, you’re safe and warm and eating your delicious bowl of chili.  Why? Because you put in the time and the work to get it just right.  You did the work to get all the ingredients.  You chopped the onions fine and even put in a touch of garlic.  You let it simmer for hours and made some homemade cornbread to dunk in it.  I’m kinda getting hungry now!

It’s the same thing with gratitude.  You need to put the work into it.  You can’t just open a can of tomato sauce and call it chili.  And you can’t just say “I’m grateful for my family” once and expect the miracles to start rolling in.  You have to practice gratitude all the time.  All throughout your day.  At first you need to consciously and intentionally think about it. When I first started I set aside specific times to practice gratitude.  Every morning when I woke up, I would take a few seconds to think about what I was most grateful for at that moment.  Then again when I drove to work, I would turn off the radio and think of things that I was grateful for.  Then again at noon…… you get the idea. Now, I’ve been doing this so long that all throughout my day, gratitude just pops in my head.  Some people keep gratitude journals.  I can’t do that.  Maybe you can, I can’t.  I tried.  I bought a nice new journal, got a new pen, set aside time to write before bed.  It worked great for about 3 days.  Then I just sorta stopped.  You’ll just have to find what works for you.  The point is, don’t give up.

So, why is gratitude important?  It makes what you have, feel like it’s enough.  Have you ever bought a new car?  I mean that shiny, leather still smells good, new car?  I did once.  I got a shiny, red HHR.  It was the best car ever.  I loved that car.  I smiled for weeks driving that car.  Then after about 3 years, it was ok.  It was fine.  I still liked it, but it was nothing special.  Another 3 or 4 years passed and I was sick of that stupid car.  There was nothing wrong with it.  It ran great and still looked great.  The seats were like new.  It hadn’t really changed at all.  I had.  I was just plain tired of it and wanted something new.  I wasn’t grateful for that car.  What a brat!  Lots of people would be so thankful for that little car.  Not me.  I was ready to move on.  I even started to feel bad.  I not only didn’t appreciate it, I was starting to get kinda angry thinking about it.  I really wanted something new and shiny so I could go back to that feeling of happiness I had.  Like I said, the car didn’t change – I did.  Getting a new car wouldn’t create happiness for me.  It would bring me some joy for a year or 2, but then it would just be another car.  So a shiny new car can NOT create happiness.  See the difference?  Because this is important.  It can bring me some measure of happiness for a while, but it can’t create it. What can?  Gratitude.  Being grateful for that little, red HHR could have created happiness for me.  If I had practiced my gratitude for that car, I wouldn’t have felt like I needed something else.  I wouldn’t have had that aching, pit in my stomach, feeling like I’m missing out on something.  Does that mean you keep the same car forever? Heck no.  You buy a new car whenever you need one.  But be grateful for the one you currently have and you’ll be happier.  When you decide it would be nice to get something new, be grateful for that opportunity.  Be grateful for the years of service your old HHR gave you.  Be grateful for the job and the money that will allow you to buy a new car.  Be grateful.  That’s what will keep you from feeling like something is lacking in your life.  That’s what will keep you from feeling like you’re missing out on something better.  That’s what will keep you from feeling angry that you can’t afford a shiny new Tahoe.  With all that said, you have to have your basic physical needs met to have peace in your life.  You have to be fortunate enough to have a safe place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, etc.  Now I’m not saying you need a newer, bigger house to have your needs met.  I’m saying you need a safe place to live.

I have a very good friend who lost her house to a tornado.  I mean, one minute it was there and the next….poof…. it was gone.  And she was in it with her husband at the time.  Talk about devastating!  She no longer had a safe place to live or clothes to wear or anything else.  She was definitely in crisis mode in the hours following the storm.  But, after time, things calmed down and she slowly started to get her life back again.  She had to live in a hotel for months.  She went from a big, beautiful home to a small little hotel room.  But… here’s the biggy, she was grateful to be able to live in that tiny, little room.  Sure it drove her crazy from time to time.  She was living in a hotel room for heaven’s sake.  But she was still grateful and that brought some peace to an otherwise topsy turvy life.  It made things better for her so she could not only survive the devastation but find peace and contentment.  She had to work for it.  It didn’t come naturally.  I’m sure she wanted to yell and scream and cry.  I probably would have.  But she was grateful and she found some peace.  Did I mention gratitude is huge?  It is.  Huge.

Now, here’s where gratitude has its real power.  It can actually take any negative feeling you have, whether it’s anger or loneliness or grief or jealousy, or whatever IT is and break it up.  If you break it up enough, it will disappear or at least become small enough that it doesn’t consume you anymore.  Let me give you an example.  You can’t live 50 years without having pain and sorrow in your life.  It just happens.  I had a time when someone I cared very much about completely betrayed me.  It was devastating.  My heart broke.  My stomach hurt.  How could this have happened?  I thought this person liked me.  I thought they cared about me.  Betrayal!  I think that incident was probably the seed that started these steps.  I needed to find a way to get my happy back to stop being so mad at them.

If I had known then, what I know now, I would have started by saying “I’m mad and hurt and betrayed, but I’m going to work to bring peace to my life”.  I don’t think that I would have needed to dig very deep with this one to know that my pain was from my fear of not being loved.  When they betrayed me, my Fear Monster was just laughing saying “See.  I told you.  Nobody loves you Molly”  So, I could have looked at that Monster and said “I release my fear of not being loved to you God” and a little tiny piece would have been chipped off of it.  That monster would not be so strong.  Here comes the gratitude part.  I couldn’t have been grateful that they hurt me.  But, I could have said “I’m so grateful that my husband loves me and supports me and is there for me when I need him the most.  I’m so grateful for my kids and my family.  I’m so grateful that I get the chance to grow as a person.  I’m so grateful that I get to break off a piece of my “not being loved” fear monster”.  I know that if I had done these first three steps back then, I probably wouldn’t have instantly felt better.  Too much of my fear monster was stirred up.  It would have taken me days and days  of saying it over and over just to feel a little better.  But I would have felt better.  I truly believe that.  It wouldn’t have erased all of the pain, but I would have felt better, faster.  That incident was years ago and I’m still not over it.  When I see that person I get anxious and nervous and worry about what I’m going to say.  That’s because the incident was so big for me, that my fear of not being loved keeps getting stirred up just by seeing them.  But, I was able to let the anger go.  Not because what they did was ok (it wasn’t).  But because I wanted to be happy.  And for me to be happy, I had to let the anger and sadness go.  Now, with that said, they are no longer a part of my life.  We get to choose who is in our lives and who isn’t.  When people put out a lot of negative energy, I try to not have them be a part of my life.  That doesn’t mean that I wish them any ill will.  I don’t.  It doesn’t mean that I’m mad at them.  I’m not.  It doesn’t mean that I should think bad things about them.  I don’t.  I’m nice to them whenever I see them, but I don’t hang out with them and they are not a part of my life.  And that’s ok.   I didn’t forgive them and let go of my anger for them.  I did that for me because I wanted peace and contentment in my life.  Holding on to all of that anger was keeping me from my happy.   Every case is different and every person is different.  How long it takes you to lessen your pain varies from person to person.  What’s constant is the fact that practicing gratitude will help this pain to shrink.  It will create peace for you.  It is power.

Homework:  Start small.  Every day, consciously take the time to find things in your life to be grateful for.  Every day.  As many times as you can.  Then I want you to think of something that makes you nervous or angry or sad.  Start to think about something you can be grateful for with it.  If someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of cussing or honking your horn in anger, say “I’m mad and that’s ok because I’m going to work through it”  Then think about why you just got mad.  Keep digging down until you get to the real reason and then release it to God.  Then say “I’m so grateful they didn’t hit me.  I’m so grateful I was able to avoid an accident.  I’m so grateful…….”  You may not be happy it happened, but you won’t be as angry anymore.  It works.  It’s powerful.  Try it.  But, like chili, it takes time.  Be patient. You CAN do this.  You CAN create happiness for yourself.  You have the power!  Isn’t that cool?!  You CAN do this.  It just takes time and work.  Don’t quit.  You’re worth the effort.

Wishing you much peace,