7 Enemies of Gratitude

7 Enemies of Gratitude

Gratitude is to the health and happiness of our heart, as a protective ground cover is to the health and happiness of a beautiful garden.

Sometimes the wellbeing of the garden is threatened by enemies such as weeds, weather and debris. Just like a garden has enemies, gratitude also has enemies. Destructive habits.

It’s common for us to develop certain habits that are opposed to a spirit of thankfulness. These habits, like the weeds and rubble in a garden, need to be rooted out, dug up and tossed out in order for gratitude to flourish in the garden of our lives.

These 7 bad habits, self-pity, complaining, comparing, isolation, pace, entitlement attitude, lack of sleep, are enemies of gratitude.

Self-pity –

Self- pity is that deadly self –talk that leads us to feel sorry for ourselves. Self-pity sounds like this, “Poor me…. my kids are so difficult, my family doesn’t care about me, or my husband is never home, I have it so hard, I never have enough time for myself, or my boss doesn’t appreciate me, or I never get any help, or we don’t have enough money. Poor me, I have it so hard because…..you fill in the blank

Self- pity prevents us from being grateful because all we see is the negative. We get so focused on the negative that we forget to look at what is good and beautiful in our lives.

Complaining –

Complaining is really just verbalizing our self -pity!

Think about it the next time you complain, isn’t it just a different way to say “poor me”? When left unchecked, self –pity can develop into the destructive habit of complaining.

Pick any part of your life. Are there things worth complaining about?  Maybe….But does it help?!

Like self-pity, complaining prevents us from being grateful because, when we complain, we turn away from the blessings in our lives and hyper focus on the negative.

Comparing –

There is a formula for comparing and it goes like this,  First– look at another person, family or situation and make assumptions based on what we think we see.  Second– measure ourselves, and our lives against that perception. Third– feel inadequate, inferior, incompetent or whatever negative feeling you like.

Comparing sounds like this, “They have a perfect marriage…We should be able to have a perfect marriage. Their kids are so respectful and well behaved…Our kids should be that respectful and well behaved. They have a new car…We should be able to have a new car. Her house is perfectly decorated… I can’t have anyone over because mine doesn’t look like that. She is always so put together…Why can’t I look like that?

Comparing ourselves to others blocks gratitude because we are so focused on other people and what we don’t have or don’t measure up to, that we miss the blessings, gifts and talents in our own lives.

Isolation –

Isolation is very easy to achieve in this age of technology. Computers, iPads, smart phones, text, email, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. all give us the false impression that we are connected.

But, the truth is with all the devices and programs available to us today, we could very easily move through our lives taking care of our physical needs without seeing or speaking to a single person!

Isolation blocks gratitude because it creates a “self-vacuum”. It’s hard to recognize the gifts in our lives if we are constantly looking inward.

Pace –

The pace of our lives as a block to gratitude is a tricky one since we live in a culture where being “busy” has taken on a ‘god-like” status. How can we appreciate and be grateful for the little things when, we’re moving so fast we can’t even see the little things!

The other day I observed this struggle with pace first hand. I was at a local coffee shop, when I woman rushed in and hurriedly ordered a yummy coffee treat. While the toasty hot beverage was being created she told the clerk, that she felt she deserved a special treat since she had been on the run since the wee hours of the morning! Before we knew it, she was gone, dashing off to her next obligation, without even taking a minute to savor the treat she had just purchased.

How much sweeter could that latte have been, had she taken the time to sit and savor the moment? How often do we rush around trying to “get it all in”, only to find that we have lost our peace and forgotten what’s important?

Often times our schedules are so full that we barely have time to think at all, let alone think about the things we should be grateful for! In order to count our blessings we actually have to take the time to think about what they are!

Entitlement Attitude –

Entitlement is the general attitude of feeling as though we “deserve” whatever it is we want. Entitlement can also be a way of justifying many things in our lives.  It sounds something like this, “After all, I work hard and I am a good person, I deserve it”, or “I don’t do anything for myself”….”So I deserve this”.

Entitlement can be sneaky because when we work hard, we want to enjoy the fruit of our labor, or treat ourselves for a job well done. It is a slippery slope that is hard to back out of.

The “I deserve it” attitude is dangerous because it sucks the need for thankfulness out of any gift or circumstance. If we think we deserve it, it’s not a gift or blessing. If it’s not a gift or blessing then what is there to be thankful for?

Lack of sleep

I think lack of sleep is closely related to the pace we keep. We run so hard and have committed to so many obligations, we sacrifice sleep in order to keep up!

Sacrificing sleep eventually leads to exhaustion and when we are exhausted we don’t feel well physically or mentally. An ugly negative fog, driven by the lack of sleep, tends to roll in and distort every facet of our lives.

Lack of sleep is an enemy of gratitude because when we are tired we tend to see things as bigger, more difficult, and more urgent than they really are.

In order to nurture gratitude in our lives the first thing we need to do is, yank out all the weeds. Become aware of, and root out, all those bad habits that block our ability to see the beautiful gifts and blessings in our life.

The second step toward happiness is to plant and nurture the “ground cover” of gratitude in our lives.

In my next post, I’ll share some ways we can cultivate the ground cover of gratitude in the garden of our lives.

In the meantime ponder these 7 bad habits. Have any of them taken root in your life? Becoming aware of the “weed” or bad habit is the first step to rooting it out!

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Have a Little Gratitude Will Ya? It could Save Your Life

It’s hard to believe that November is right around the corner! November means Thanksgiving is just right around the corner! Yikes!  Where has the year gone!

Thanksgiving always causes me to pause and reflect on the essence of the holiday – Gratitude.

Gratitude is one of those things that we talk a lot about. We talk about it with our kids, we speak of it with our friends and we study it at church.

“Thank you” is that phrase I learned as kid when my parents wanted me to be polite and have good manners. Of course, I’ve continued that same tradition by teaching my own kids to say thank you when someone has blessed them in some way.

Yes, being thankful is important but I think gratitude is more than just a nice way to demonstrate good manners. I think gratitude is a heart and soul issue.

Webster seems to agree. Check out this definition,

“Gratitude is the substance of a heart ready to show appreciation, or thankfulness; it is not simply an emotion, which involves a pleasant feeling that can occur when we receive a favor or benefit from another person but rather the combination of a state of being AND an emotion”

Although we know that thankfulness and appreciation are the keys to a happy, healthy life, we still seem to struggle with being thankful for what we have, who we’re with or where we are. We seem to get so covered over with the stress of our life that we kick into survival mode and forget all about being thankful.

Stress is a super destructive force in our lives.  We’ve heard all about what it can do to both our mental, and physical health. Study after study has proven the detrimental effects long term stress can have on us. From anxiety and depression, to heart disease and insomnia, stress can destroy our health.

It is true, life is full of stressful situations. A difficult marriage, the daily struggle of an unruly toddler or teen, financial struggles, critically ill children, death of a loved one and divorce are only a puny sampling of the unlimited causes of stress in our lives. Still others work in stressful jobs, such as, our first responders, military, emergency room medical staff, and the list goes on.

It seems the causes of stress are everywhere. Are we doomed? Is this the new normal? Do we throw up our hands and just accept the level of stress, and the damage it does in our lives?

Sure… if you want to live a short, sick, miserable life!

Or, we can work to neutralize stress by cultivating an attitude of thankfulness, and appreciation for absolutely everything in our lives, good and bad. Studies have proven, that the positive feelings generated by an attitude of gratitude, can be the exact remedy we need to cure the physical, mental and emotional ailments, caused by on-going stress.

When I think of what gratitude can do in our lives, I think of what a beautiful ground cover can do, to stabilize a vulnerable portion of my garden. A thick, lush ground cover can prevent erosion, and protect against weeds, much the same as what gratitude can do for our hearts. When cultivated well, gratitude can protect our hearts from the erosion caused by ongoing stress. In addition, a “good ground cover” of gratitude can prevent the invasion of the weeds of despair, which can come with unfettered stress. Being thankful can protect us from the effects of stress, and bring that sense of wellbeing and happiness that we yearn for.

Living a life of thankfulness and appreciation is like planting a lovely, protective, ground cover in our lives. But sometimes, if we haven’t been diligent about being thankful, we may have developed some bad habits, that are like the rocks in my garden. Rocky soil can be one of a garden’s worst enemies. It can make growing anything impossible. The same is true with certain bad habits that can develop in us over time, if we aren’t careful. These bad habits are enemies of gratitude, and need to be dug up and thrown out.

These habits, or enemies, can make cultivating gratitude in our lives nearly impossible. What are these enemies? We’ll talk about that in the next post.

For now think about the importance of gratitude and how you can cultivate it in your life!

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Finding Happily Ever After in the Common Ground

Finding Happily Ever After in the Common Ground

After 34 years and a whole lot of life my hubby and I have come to understand that marriage is truly one of the most difficult yet rewarding journeys we will ever embark on! But you and I both know that the best things in life don’t come without a good bit of hard work and a whole lot of sacrifice. Marriage is no different, it’s one of the best hardest things we’ll ever do.

True, there are those couples who seem to effortlessly glide through life without any difficulty or strife. But we need to be honest with ourselves and remember that we are only seeing the outside. We rarely see the struggle and constant work that takes place behind the scenes. Even the couples who appear to have it all together from the outside, are most likely living out their own version of the marriage drama.

Few of us really understand what we are getting into when we say “I do”. It’s not until the reality of our differences hits us that we begin to understand. Two different people coming together with different temperaments and personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, and coming from two different families with two different upbringings is hard enough! But I have noticed that there are some bad habits that we married folk can fall into if we are not careful, and they can make marriage even harder!

Focusing on differences and comparing our marriage to others are two of the destructive habits that can threaten the very life of our marriage. If fed and entertained, these habits most definitely have the power to destroy a marriage.

When asked about the secret to their 50 year marriage, Billy Graham responded, “My wife and I are both happily incompatible.”

It’s the differences in our beloved that attracted us to them in the first place. But, once we are in the thick of things those differences can begin to rub us the wrong way, and left unchecked, can develop into full blown resentment. The statement, “We don’t have anything in common” is a sure sign that differences are the main focus. If all we do is focus on the differences, then it will most certainly appear that we don’t have anything in common!

What if we stop focusing on what we don’t have in common and start focusing on what we do? What beautiful, nourishing conversations are we missing by focusing on the lack of common interest? What experiences or memories have we missed because we failed to recognize the interests we do have in common? What if, instead of listing all of the things we don’t have in common, we make a list of things we do have in common? What if we spend the same amount of time we have been spending on bemoaning the lack of commonality, on studying and nurturing the areas we have in common?

Try it! Make a list of common interests, ideas, habits, and hobbies. Make sure you include shared faith, shared responsibilities, and shared historical moments, shared confidence, and shared fears. Each spouse can make their list independent of the other and then come together to share.

Focusing on the differences is dangerous because it can cause us to look outside of our own marriage for examples of what we think a good marriage should look like. We begin to seek out those marriages that exemplify the qualities we think our marriage or our spouse lacks, to prove to ourselves that our marriage isn’t what it should be. We compare our marriage to the marriages of friends, family or even more dangerous, acquaintances.

Comparing is dangerous no matter what, but especially comparing what we have to acquaintances who we “think” we know, based on what we see from the outside. The trouble with comparing our marriages with those of others, is that we can never make an “apples to apples” comparison.

Each marriage is as unique as the man and woman in it. The diverse ingredients we each bring to our individual marriages are gifts from God. Our temperaments, personalities, gifts, limitations, strengths, and weaknesses blend together to create a one of a kind marriage.

It takes this variety of combinations to bring about Gods will here on earth. What would it be like if each marriage was identical to the next? How boring! And how limited. Different combinations of temperaments, likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and desires are what we need to reach the maximum number of souls for Christ. We need to cooperate with God and embrace the qualities that make our marriages unique. We glorify God in as much as we embrace the uniqueness of our union. We need to appreciate the differences and work with them, not against them.

There is not one template for how a marriage should look. It may not look like your best friend’s. That’s great, because it’s not supposed to! We need to stop looking at other couples to determine what is best for our marriage. It’s time to own the marriage we are in. Work with what we have! Stop trying to look for the perfect marriage template. It doesn’t exist. Perfect is what you make out of YOUR marriage. NOT what you force on it from some outside ideal.

Maybe if we stop focusing on the differences and start looking at common ground, the differences will fade into the back ground and the shared interests and common viewpoints will take center stage.

Imagine what we could do if we embrace our differences and stop comparing our marriages with those whom we think have the perfect marriage. We could grow in and nurture our understanding of, our unique set of qualities and circumstances and build the marriage that is right for US! All for the glory of God.

Happily ever after is possible if we focus on the common ground and stop comparing our marriage to some idea of perfection we think we see in other couples.

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Holy is as Holy Does

Holy is as Holy Does

I love when I get the opportunity to sit with holy people who are doing beautiful things to glorify God.  The thrill and satisfaction they get when serving their brothers and sisters in Christ through their particular ministry is truly inspiring. I can get so caught up in their excitement about the work they are doing that it makes me want to do great things for the church also!!

I must admit though, that sometimes I leave those conversations with more than just inspiration. Depending on the current state of affairs in my work and family life it is possible for me to leave those conversations burdened with a sense of self-doubt and a feeling of discontent. Unfortunately, I do occasionally head down that slippery slope of self-doubt, as I begin to doubt whether I am “doing” enough or whether I am even doing the right thing. That self-doubt leads to a battle of my “selfs”. I get caught up in a battle between my reasonable self and my “I can do it all” self!

I like to think big so the “I can do it all” self, struggles to be satisfied with my ho-hum, ordinary life. My limited level of service frustrates that part of me and the “I can do it all” self begins to whine. It whispers in my ear, “To be holy you really need to be doing more” or “to really glorify God you need to be doing something else, something much bigger!”

It’s easy for me to look at those individuals who seem to have visibly successful ministries and get confused about what I am supposed to be doing to glorify God. It’s like a deer in head lights. When something big and bright comes into my path, sometimes I forget what I am and were I am going! Thankfully I do have a reasonable side, and an amazing coach and spiritual guide, otherwise I could get myself in a whole lot of trouble!

I really do want to be holy and glorify God. So how?

“But, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, be holy because I am holy” ~ 1 Peter 1:16                 

I am called to be holy in every aspect of my conduct. I don’t have to go looking for ways to be holy.

It’s actually super simple and super hard all at the same time… simple because God in his infinite wisdom has fit a life for me full of opportunities to choose holiness. Hard because he has fit a life for me full of opportunities to choose holiness! Those opportunities present themselves in every facet of my life. They come from my daily responsibilities and activities, my normal mundane day to day life.

Each circumstance, each encounter, each relationship provides me the opportunity to choose to glorify God with my thoughts, words and actions. From family and friends to work and hobbies the opportunities sometimes seem endless.

We can choose holiness in every circumstance and every relationship in our lives. It’s true, holiness is not easy because it frequently demands that we step outside our comfort zone!  We all know that life is hard!  So in the face of that difficulty or discomfort is our opportunity to choose a holy response. Whether it be a certain situation or a relationship, our response is what will either be a blessing or a curse. Either holy or not.

Instead of asking yourself, “What more or what else can I do?”

Ask, “How can I be holy and glorify God in the situation or relationship I am in right now?

So blessed to have all these “opportunities” in my life!

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