On Gratitude and Entitlement

There is a mentality in most Western societies that we are entitled certain rights, such as freedom, respect, and the pursuit of happiness.  A few people have even taken this to such an extreme that they see most people as peasants serving them (the god or goddess) of the universe—a narcissistic mentality!  However, what if we lived lives that were opposite this mentality?  What if we realized that no one really owes us anything on this green planet, and that everything good we get is really a gift? There have been countless studies done that have shown that gratitude helps not only boost our mood levels, it can help alleviate many physical ailments as well.

One way we can show gratitude is in how we treat others.  I think one aspect of showing gratitude for the people that are in our lives is by treasuring them.  Never treat anyone as if they were dispensable or take someone for granted. Unfortunately, most people, including me, have taken someone for granted at one point or another in our lives. We assumed that they would always be there for us to serve our needs and make us happy. However, if we realized just how much of an impact they have made in our lives, and how limited a time we may have with these people, we might treat them more as royalty, rather than as slaves or servants.

Another way we can show gratitude to other people is by giving grace to them. My definition of showing grace to people is to loving them, flaws and all, being willing to learn from them, and by forgiving them. We love others by not giving up on them even after they have made a mistake or hurt you.  Yes, there may be situations in which we cannot be with someone after they hurt us because they pose a physical or emotional threat to our safety and that of other loved ones. However, that does not mean we should harbor hatred or bitterness towards them, as it will only hurt us in the end, not the offender.  I know several people who have hurt me emotionally, and who I initially had bitterness and anger towards them, but then when I forgave them, the relationship was able to be restored.  We should also be constantly striving to learn from the people around us, both for our and their benefit. We learn so that we can understand the people around us better and form stronger connections with others. We also learn from others so that we can better care for those around us. Finally, we learn from others in our appreciation for their uniqueness and what they contribute to this world—including ourselves.

However, when we harbor an entitlement attitude, this erodes our ability to be grateful for those in our lives. First of all, an entitlement mentality brings about complaining and judgments against others, especially when they don’t meet what we perceive to be our needs. For instance, the gunman in the recent Mercy Hospital shooting had wanted the engagement ring from his ex-fiancee back so badly that he felt like he had to kill to get it.(1) In other words, the gunman felt that she owed him the ring that he gave her back because they broke up, and he judged her to be a wicked person because she probably did not want to give it back to him.

This same entitlement attitude also impedes forgiveness and reconciliation because of the element of pride in entitlement.  Proud people are not inclined to forgive others because they think they are always right and that the other party “deserves”their anger and bitterness.  Forgiveness requires some measure of humility because part of forgiveness is the willingness to share in some of the consequences of someone else’s sin.  For instance, if you forgive a family member for their alcoholism and the effects of it, you may still have to deal with their recovery process or deal with a couple of relapses. However, if you are not willing to forgive and feel that they owe you something back, then reconciliation and freedom from the effects of the offense will not really be possible. 

Another way we can show gratitude is by being thankful for the material possessions given to us. One way to be grateful for our material possessions is by enjoying them.  Enjoying them does not mean being wasteful or taking what we have for granted.  Enjoying our material possessions means to be joyful in interacting with our gifts. It also means being grateful to those who gave them to us.  Another way we can be grateful for the material possessions we have is to see them as gifts, not as wages owed us. When we see possessions as gifts, we are often more appreciative of them, especially when we know that someone sacrificed financially to give them to us.

However, an entitlement attitude completely destroys our joy and gratitude in the things we are given. This is because it completely devalues the gift and giver, since instead of something to be treasured and enjoyed, we have it because we “deserve” it,or it is “owed” to us.  We may not enjoy the gift or gifts as much, because of the fear of it being destroyed or devalued.  Also, an entitlement attitude toward the material possessions we have encourages greed and selfishness, because it breeds the further mentality of being “owed” more than we have now. It also breeds selfishness because, with an entitlement attitude, we are often less willing to share our material goods to those in need. We think we “earned” these gifts,and that no one should take them away from us.

What a difference we could make if we strove to be more grateful for each person and each gift we were given! However, when we have an entitlement attitude and are ungrateful for the grace that is given to us each day, we lose our joy and love in life and for others.  Since it is a time to give thanks, who in your life, can you thank today?  Maybe write them a note of gratitude, or tell them in person how much they mean to you. As for the many material gifts we are blessed with, enjoy them, but also be willing to share with those in need so that they can have joy too.

Sources:

  1. Gorner, Jeremy, Annie Sweeney and Elyssa Cherney. (2018, November 20).Gunman in Mercy Hospital attack had threatened to shoot up Chicago Fire Academy, officials say. Chicago Tribune.  p. 1, Retrieved from : https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-chicago-mercy-hospital-shooting-juan-lopez-20181120-story.html
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How to Be Civil To Someone With Whom You Disagree

There has been so much dissension in my country (U.S.A) lately, especially when people talk about politics or something they are passionate about.  I’m sure the same is true in other countries as well.  This can be seen most evidently on social media platforms, where people feel that they can say whatever they want, with no filters whatsoever.  The negative political advertisements do us no favors either as far as the dissension problem is concerned.

This past Sunday at church, we were a having question and answer discussion to find out about the pastoral candidate (My current pastor is leaving. He has been at the church for over 40 years!), and the candidate made this wise statement that we all should learn to heed (paraphrased-emphasis mine): Even if I don’t agree with you on everything, I agree to disagree. 

I understand that it can be difficult to be civil to someone who vehemently disagrees with something you are passionate about.  I know, because when I was younger, I used to be combative against people who mocked or disagreed with that which I was passionate about. However, I have learned these following things about how we all can be civil to those whom we disagree:

  1. Remember the inherent value of the person whom you disagree with is not dependent on what they believe.—Society has perpetuated the lie that your worth is dependent on what you do or what you believe.  This has resulted in attacks and dissensions over the most trivial things!  However, if we remembered that the person who disagrees with us is still someone with a family and with a life, we would probably be more respectful and compassionate in relating with them.  Yes, beliefs and ideas DO have consequences, especially when they translate into actions, but attacking a person’s character based on what they believe will not get them to change their opinions or their convictions. In fact, it will often make the person hold on to their beliefs even tighter and your contrasting beliefs something to be mocked by them simply because they now equate what you believe with how you acted towards them!
  2. Find common ground—Yes, the person whom you disagree with may have a different way of thinking than you, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find similarities in your beliefs or goals with them. For instance, both Republicans and Democrats want to better their society in which they live in, but they may go about it in different ways.  Also, regardless of religious belief or philosophy of life, the common ground one can find with one who disagrees with them is that they both want to better their lives, and, most likely, those of others.  Finding common ground will not only deescalate any potential arguments you may have with the person who disagrees with you, but may also serve to unite you with them in some way.
  3. Never attack the other person’s character, but focus on much as possible on why you disagree.—When you attack the person whom you disagree with, instead on focusing instead on the issue or issues which you differ, you have already lost their respect and listening ears.  Yes, I understand that debates and disagreements can get heated, but when we attack someone’s character or who they are inherently, we not only lose our own sense of integrity and respect, but we devalue their inherent worth as human being as well.
  4. Find out why they believe as they do.—Instead of coming across as combative and argumentative, ask questions. Find out why they believe as they do. For instance, a person may have certain views because of what they have experienced in life, both good and bad. For instance, if you find out a person doesn’t drink because he or she has seen the negative effects of alcohol in their family, you can better understand where they are coming from when they want the legal age to buy alcohol to be raised even higher. Sometimes people believe the way they do because of what others have told them, or misconceptions they had picked out along the way. If you find out they believe  a misconception of your view, you can respectfully and lovingly clear that up with the truth.

These are some of the things that I have learned to do in being civil with another person whom I disagree. So, when you voice your opinions and come across someone that doesn’t think as you do, whether it be on social media or in person, remember the value of the person is not based on what they believe; find common ground; never attack the person’s character, and find out why they believe as they do.  Finally, if all else fails, you should strive to just agree to disagree. However, if we more consistently applied these principles, this world would be a much more peaceful and unifying place.

Why Not to Take People For Granted

I recently watched a video about a husband who wanted a divorce from his wife, but she had a request before he could go through with the decision—He had to carry her to the front door of their home each day for a month.  He did so, and as the days went by, she grew increasingly thinner. Something  also happened inside him, and he began to feel renewed love for his wife, even telling his lover whom he had an affair with that he no longer wanted to divorce his wife.  However, by that time, it was too late. His wife had died on his way back home to her.  She wanted her husband’s love so badly that she made him carry her just as he did when he first married her. The thing is that her husband did love her in the end, but it was too late for her to know that. You can see this video at: https://www.facebook.com/powerofpositivity/videos/1015526229483237/

I am not married, but this video can apply to all of us, married or not.  After I watched this video, I almost cried because I thought about all the people that were hurting in my midst, that I didn’t know about, some of whom I had taken for granted. 

I’m speaking to myself, as much as I am to you, the reader, but I beg you—Do not be that husband in that video who almost divorced his wife and was too late in appreciating all the things she did for him.  Do not be the parent, child, friend, employee, teacher, student, or boss that realized too late what your loved ones and those who cared about you have done for you.  Do not be so busy with life, or your own self-serving desires that you emotionally and psychologically kill the souls of those who you love the most.  Do not be so self-absorbed in your own little world that you forget the needs and the struggles of those around you. 

If we don’t appreciate all that has been given to us—the things that we failed to appreciate will be taken away from us.

For our family–Do you have a wife, husband, father, mother, or child that serves selflessly for the entire family without expecting anything in return? Has a family member or members sacrificed everything for your happiness and joy? Do not think that they will always be able or willing to do that for you. Do not take them for granted. Sincerely say to them, “Thank you and I love you. I appreciate all you have done for me.”  Treasure them as greater than anything that this world has to offer.  Be willing to serve them with no expectation of return. Be willing to sacrifice your life for them.

For our friends—Do you have a true, blue friend who doesn’t leave you when you face troubles or trials in life, always encourages you to be your best, and who loves you as you are?  Do not take advantage of them for your own selfish desires—lest you lose someone great and wonderful!  Thank them, and be willing to return the favor should such an opportunity arise for you.  Treasure them as more valuable than gold or silver. Be a friend to them.

For our co-workers—Do you know a fellow co-worker who has always helped you out when you were in a snag? Do you know an employee who consistently goes above and beyond, not only for their own benefit, but for the good of the whole company?  Thank them.  Bosses, you don’t have to give them extra perks, or treat them better than others.  Bosses and employees—take the time to appreciate those who make your work life something that you can enjoy or, at least, make more bearable.  Do not wait until the employee quits, gets transferred, or somehow leaves the company to let them know how much you appreciated them or to realize how much they contributed to your life.  Notice these people now, before it is too late for you—and for the company you work for.

For our teachers —Is there a special teacher or teachers that have positively impacted your life? Do not wait until it is too late to thank them for the impact they made in your life. Let them know they are appreciated and that you are learning valuable life lessons from them.  Often, teachers get the brunt of the blame and criticism when things go wrong, but when they do something good, it is either brushed aside, or it is barely noticed.  Thanking them and doing what you can to show you care for them will keep these teachers motivated to keep doing the good they have done.

Who in your life have you taken for granted? Who in your life do you need to thank? Take time to thank them today. If we take time to appreciate each of the people in our lives that has positively impacted us, not only will the other person feel loved and valued, but you will also have the joy  and peace in knowing that you said everything that you needed to say—before it was too late.

Godsend

written on 10/3/2018

— To everyone in my life who has believed in me

 

I felt alone for so long

I felt no one really loved me

Years of pain and hurt inside

I didn’t let anyone see

 

I was so torn and broken

I thought no one would love me

But my heart you would open

Healing the deep pain inside

 

You showed me abundant love

And gave me the strength to stand

Because you believed in me

And who I was meant to be

Hope -a poem

-to everyone going through pain and hurt right now

When everything falls apart

When things start to unravel

When you are on your last rope

I still see a glimmer of hope

 

Because one day I almost died

In me, there was almost no fight

I almost missed that glorious light

But that bright light filled my soul

 

The light can also bring you much hope

If you let the brightness fill your soul

You will be able to see much love

And again your life will be made whole

How to Cultivate Gratitude

I am happy and blessed with my life, though it is not always free of challenges and trials.  As I have shared before, I have struggled with depression since I was a little girl.  Though this was not the cause of all of my depression, I found that when I realized what I actually had rather than focusing on what I lacked; I found that I was able to cultivate more joy and gratitude into my life.  Yes, cultivating gratitude can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you are facing something tough and personal. However, it still can be done. Gratitude should be cultivated even more during times of prosperity and peace.  Here is what I am learning and have learned about how to cultivate a grateful attitude:

  1. Focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t have: I believe that the number one barrier to being grateful is our focus. When we focus on all the things that we lack, we tend to develop an attitude of self-pity, which often leads to complaining and bitterness. When we focus on the things we do have, we realize just how much we are blessed. For instance, when I get frustrated at myself because I don’t know how to do something right, my focus is wrongly on the talents that I don’t have instead of my strengths. However, if I shift my focus on something I am better at—such as writing– I find that I can be much more encouraged and less upset at the thing in which I am struggling.  Many people who struggle with being grateful for what they have also struggle with envy because their focus is on getting (or wishing they had) something that someone else possesses, instead of what they have already been given.  For instance, I used to envy people who were happily married and had children, because, as a single, I did not have those for myself. However, when I instead focused on the relative freedom and time I had to help others, I realized the blessing that I had being single that these married people no longer had.
  2. Know that we are often given more than we deserve: Many people, including myself, at times, struggle with the fact that we get more than we deserve, because of our sense of entitlement. However, even though we have all hurt others, though maybe not all intentionally, most of us still have people that love and care for us, and we have some semblance of joy in our lives.  The fact that others still give us mercy even though we may have hurt them before should cause us to rejoice and be thankful!  If you drive, have you not gotten a ticket even though you were speeding through traffic? That is evidence of mercy!   Or you made a serious error at work, and your boss does not fire you? That, too, is evidence of grace and mercy!  Bring to mind the moments when you should have had to bear the consequences of your bad actions, but in God’s and others’ mercy, you didn’t have to.  Moreover, think of the times when you did something careless, but you were saved from disaster.
  3. Consider others who are in worse situations than you: Finally, a great way to cultivate gratitude is not to look at others who are doing better than you, but see the people around you who are in more difficult situations than you. For instance, some people I know have either a loved one struggling with a serious medical issue or are struggling themselves. This helps me to be grateful that my family and I are in good health, even though I may come home from work tired sometimes. Recently, at work, we had a celebration for the bonus that my co-workers and I were able to get on our last paycheck.   They served pizza. Though the pizza became cold after being out for several hours, I was grateful work provided pizza for us because of what I heard about the struggle of people in other countries to get any food at all. In particular, I was thinking about the people of Venezuela. I heard that since they have had an electrical shortage, meat cannot be adequately cooled in freezers, so eventually it becomes spoiled, but the stores sell them anyway because people need food. So, the people actually buy the spoiled meat, season it with some spices, and eat it!  Their dire situation helps me be grateful that we have so much food, electricity, and working cooling systems (freezers and refrigerators) in the U.S and that we can eat delicious, edible food that is not spoiled.

By focusing on all that God has blessed me with, by knowing that I am often being given more than I ultimately deserve and by considering people in worse situations than me, I am able to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for my life. When I do this, I find that I am not only able to be more thankful for what I have, but I am also to have more joy, even in the tough times. Even though we may face many challenges and struggles, we still can cherish and appreciate what we do have before it is too late.

Healing

Author’s note: This poem illustrates how God has saved me from darkness and depression and has given me love, joy, and peace. This poem also illustrates how I aim to love others who are going through suffering and trials. Many interpretations are possible. I hope this poem gives you hope if you are going through a trial right now. 

poem written: 8/29/2018

The same things every day

You are tired of the drudgery

And of all of the hurt and pain

Hoping that you still stay sane

 

To the world you wear a smile

But inside your heart is breaking

From all the agony and guile

Of the people surrounding you

 

You ache for something true and real

You want an end to all this pain

You want to taste joy and love

You want peace from up above

 

I will hold your hurting soul

When you feel broken inside

I will heal your hurt and pain

So again you can be whole

 

I will give you all of my love

I will sacrifice myself for you

So you will know true, real joy

And the peace from up above