It’s often the case that we don’t appreciate things until we’re in danger of losing them. Or we only appreciate them when they’re gone. Sadly, most of us have a default setting of taking things for granted. Whether it’s at work or at home, we get used to things and when the novelty wanes, we stop being grateful. Instead of appreciating what we have, we begin to focus on what’s missing; believing a change will lift the tedium. Yet, that’s rarely the case and we often find ourselves repeating the same old patterns, once the excitement of change wears off. So what’s the answer? A grateful mindset.
Modern day society encourages us to focus on what’s missing and make that change! Yet any upside is almost always short-lived. A new job, home or relationship may temporarily distract us from our ennui, but it isn’t the panacea we’re seeking. Gratitude on the other hand, offers far more promise. It teaches us to appreciate what we have and to count our blessings. After all, things could definitely be worse, so acknowledge the good and live with the challenges. And there are always reasons to be grateful if we’re prepared to look – if a relationship is failing, we still have a job; if our health is poor, we still have a home; if we’re facing financial ruin, we still have family. The Sufi masters went a step further and asked us to appreciate the smallest aspect of our lives. Even if it was nothing more than the sun rising or rain falling. As St. Paul said, “Give thanks in all circumstances”.
But gratitude isn’t simply a self-help tool devised to develop a positive attitude. It’s rooted in ancient religions, which teach us we’ll always have trials and tribulations. This means we can’t wait for our struggles to end, before we give thanks. We need to cultivate a sense of gratitude now and understand its transformative effect. Here’s an example – look at the people around you performing a role – the postman or the refuse collector. They’re paid for their work, but have you noticed the way they light up when you thank them? When you take the time to acknowledge their existence and appreciate their efforts? Suddenly, they’re no longer strangers and a bond is created, even if it only lasts for a few seconds. The after-affects of that one moment of thoughtfulness plays out for the rest of the day.
Now let’s imagine what it’s like for God. Working tirelessly all day with few words of appreciation. Taking care of the tiniest and most mundane details, which are unlikely to be noticed because Creation is waiting for the “wow” moments. Yet, God is not discouraged. Much like the postman and refuse collector, He goes about His work, whether we notice Him or not. But when we thank Him, something magical happens. Suddenly, we’re transformed because we recognise all that is good in our life and stop taking things for granted. We become less self-absorbed and more open to the grace unfolding around us, making us happier people. But most important of all, gratitude brings us one step closer to God.