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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Submitting in Gratitude

Hello!

It's been a couple weeks, but I'm back with some new ideas swimming around in my head. I've been thinking a lot about the concept of gratitude, not necessarily because of Thanksgiving, but because I've had the opportunity to interact with some people who are grateful for most everything. In one scenario,  we were moments from starting a Divine Comedy show and several things were falling apart. I found myself starting to cry. Until a friend took my shoulders and told me, "You don't need to take all the bad that could possibly come of this and make it your fault." And he was totally right! I tend to do that a lot. I worry, and I see how things could improve. Oftentimes, looking for improvement is wonderful; it's what gets us to change. But there is a difference between divine discontent and "walking around with an umbrella waiting for it to rain" as Wiz Khalifa says.

My title has the word submission in it because this week I've come to see gratitude as a form of submitting to God. In Sunday school last week, someone mentioned having gratitude in order to be more like Christ. She mentioned even just finding the little things like how tasty your SpaghettiOs are that evening.


Now, I've been in Provo a while. I've seen both sides of the coin. I've talked to people who seem to live in another world. They are nice and sweet and often very naive. And I've seen those people be the topic of conversation among cynics who have to interact with "those people" every day in the Mormon land of Provo. I'm often in those groups of cynics who scoff when someone expresses joy at seeing a streetlight come on or something similarly minute. But I've realized that there is power in even the most seemingly stupid kinds of gratitude. Gratitude isn't measured by the worth of something we're grateful for. It's a mindset. It's a way of thinking that always includes God's hand in our lives. That is why it's important. So, in truth, gratitude is a way of submitting to God. We acknowledge His hand above our own and we praise how merciful He is.

No wonder gratitude is a commandment! When we express thanks, we remember God. We get out of our daily mindsets and think on a higher plane. Most importantly, we get in the habit of recognizing our relationship with God. We are humbled when we see how small we are. We are enlivened when we see how much He does for us.

So, I'm on a mission to make my life a more grateful one. I'm weaving in Neal A. Maxwell's talk, "Settle This in Your Hearts" because it's been piercing my heart as of late, but I think it applies here. Anything that we need to stop doing or (more often) start doing in our lives requires diligence and commitment. As Brigham Young says, "Some do not understand duties which do not coincide with their natural feelings and affections. … There are duties which are above affection" (Journal of Discourses, 7:65).

Sometimes it is hard to be grateful. Obviously, I understand this. But having gratitude when we're wont to expect the worst or to see some way that we're getting gipped is a real triumph! It reminds us Who is in charge and that there is more to this life than ourselves. What an unnatural but much richer mindset to be in! Maxwell illustrates this idea of becoming richer beings when he says, "Heavenly Father is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new and the real self. It is not a question of losing our identity but of finding our true identity!" I think about this a lot. I know I have the potential to be warm, loving, open-armed and generous. I've had sacred experiences where I've seen someone I could become and I know I can get there. Moreover, I'm motivated by these experiences because being that kind of person is the real deal. It's a person living abundantly and enjoying every moment, rather than the hand-picked times when I can't see anything going badly.

Lastly, this kind of gratitude more easily allows us to bless the lives of others. "Most omissions occur because we fail to get outside ourselves. We are so busy checking on our own temperatures, we do not notice the burning fevers of others even when we can offer them some of the needed remedies, such as encouragement, kindness, and commendation. The hands which hang down and most need to be lifted up belong to those too discouraged even to reach out anymore" (Neal A. Maxwell). If we get into the habit of seeing the bigger picture and recognizing God's hand in our lives in every little thing (even if it seems minute or stupid) we will also see people more clearly. We will notice a need for us and will see how best to fill it because we're already in the habit of communicating with God. See how cyclical this is?! Gratitude is the ice breaker when it comes to growing closer to God. Once we establish gratitude, we can become more fluent in God's ways of communications and thus see how we can improve ourselves and help those around us.

I think it is important to recognize anything when it comes to the goodness of God. It reminds us of why we're here. It reminds us of Who sent us. It reminds us of a way of life that is so much richer than our own. And really, when it comes to being a little more grateful, why the heck not?

I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving and I hope we all can see God in our lives more frequently.

Love to you all,
Whit

4 comments:

Brittany Evans said...

This is a wonderful post that I for sure needed today! Thanks Whit! :)

Noah said...

I've been thinking about gratitude a lot lately, specifically the "mechanics" of gratitude.

Elder Kevin Pearson gave a Gen Conf talk in April 2009 that went into the "mechanics" of faith that I think can be applied to gratitude:

"Faith and fear cannot coexist. One gives way to the other. The simple fact is we all need to constantly build faith and overcome sources of destructive disbelief. The Savior’s teaching comparing faith to a grain of mustard seed recognizes this reality (see Matthew 13:31–32). Consider it this way: our net usable faith is what we have left to exercise after we subtract our sources of doubt and disbelief. You might ask yourself this question: 'Is my own net faith positive or negative?' If your faith exceeds your doubt and disbelief, the answer is likely positive. If you allow doubt and disbelief to control you, the answer might be negative."

I think we can do something with gratitude to understand the factors that affect and limit our gratitude. I think it can be expressed in terms of an equation, like Elder Pearson laid out.

Gr(x) <= H + (Fa - Do - Di) - J(x,y) - Ve(x)

- Gr(x): Gratitude about a particular aspect of our lives or blessing (x)
- H: Our humility
- Fa: Our sources of faith
- Do: Doubt
- Di: Disbelief
- J(x,y): Jealously of how much others (y) have of something (x)
- Ve(x): Our vain expectations or entitlements about how much of (x) we deserve or should get

Basically, I believe our gratitude will never be greater than our "Net usable faith" and our humility, minus those things which block gratitude (jealousy and entitlement).

So, if we're feeling that we need to be more grateful there are two ways to increase our gratitude - increase our capacity for humility and faith, and decrease those factors that degrade gratitude.

Noah said...

I've been doing some more thinking today, and I think I've figured out a little more about the effect doubt/disbelief has on gratitude.

It's a little long, so I'll just link to my blog post...

http://orthodoxorchestration.blogspot.com/2013/01/gratitude-and-anti-gratitude.html

christinajensen said...

I hope you don't mind that I shared a couple of lines of this on Facebook, credit to you, of course.