Are you still grateful?
There is a lot of shit going on in the world. Just moments ago, I read a report about a shooting/hostage situation in LA. A few days ago, a Christianity Today article shocked the nation with its lambasting of Trump. Impeachment proceedings, poverty, homelessness, terrorism, hatred, evil; all persist. The world is on fire.
We didn’t start it. And nothing is burning in my house, currently, except for this lit cigarette. Outside, the world is chaos, but inside my home, all is well.
Do you ever stop for a moment to look around at all that you have and say, “thank you”? I have been more mindful to do this as of late. I catch myself trying to complain, compare, compete, or condescend something or someone, and instead, I think about something that I am grateful for and say, “thank you, God.” I thank God, over and over.
Not because I believe God needs my praise or demands that I thank him for everything in my life otherwise it will be stripped away. But because it grounds me and pulls me into a more present state of mind. The instances when I find myself wanting to complain, I have realized, are part of my shadow side—my ego— that wants to keep me comfortable in my habits.
If I focus on what I am grateful for, instead of the things I could complain about, I feel more at peace. And ‘tis the season for peace, is it not?
I am thankful for children who encourage one another. I am thankful for how sincere and inquisitive my children are. I am grateful for how much I can learn from my children.
I am thankful for my patient husband. He is unwavering in his support of me. He is delicate with conflict-resolution and understanding of my whims and moods.
I am thankful for the comforts I find in my own home; comfy blankets, firm pillows, warmth at the turn of a dial. I am thankful for the food in my fridge, the mess in my dining room, and the snow on the ground. There is much that I have that others do not. Each time I find myself wanting to act as if something isn’t enough, I remember what is enough—and that’s all that I already have.
Yeah, Trump is something else. The world is on fire. There is much to be shocked about, much more to be appalled by. But none of that is not in my house. Yes, there are perceived evils taking place all over the world. In my home, however, there are giggles and smiles, paintbrushes and crayons, kisses and caresses, laughter and love. Trump doesn’t live here. Evil doesn’t live here. But love lives here.
How do we balance our desires to be informed about what is going on in the world with our desires to focus on what brings us joy and fills us with love?
This must be a careful balance. Because if we aren’t mindful about what we give our attention to, we will tip the scales on information overload that will feed our ego to its delight while creating a deficit in our connections.
How do I mean? Consider that if all you do is focus on that which you find complaint with; that will be all you see. With the amount of access that we have to information, we are more than likely to become overloaded by what we can see, now more than ever. And that which overwhelms us sometimes demands our attention in curious ways. Ways that we can pick things apart, judge things.
There is much to complain about, indeed. But if we are not careful, we will become what we behold. Not only that but what we become, what we set our sights on, influences others. Others will imitate us. Meaning: if you become a complainer, you will be drawn to complainers, and you will attract other complainers. And, if you’re like me, when you stand back and see everyone complaining, you realize that you created an environment that now, you can no longer stand to be a part of.
What’s worse is that you will only want to engage with people so that you can find a complaint with them. We have been conditioned by a complaint-culture, so it’s a pattern that we have all been sewn into. Here is where we search for the loose thread so that we can pull ourselves away from the fabric of conformity.
When the compulsory urge to complain arises, counter the reaction with an introspective question:
How can I fit love into this response?
Most of the wrongs we see in the world we cannot fix. It’s a blatant truth that many of us refuse to accept, myself included. But countering the ills of the world doesn’t require direct proximity to the issue. I wrote about this in a previous piece, but it’s worth repeating. When we see an injustice in the world, the most direct way to confront it is by practicing justice in our homes. It starts there, where love lives. It is only from this very intimate proximity that we can widen the circumference of that impact of justice for the whole world.
We counter the debt created by an injustice by crediting the world with justice, with love, and with mercy. What took humanity backward we can move forward by paying it forward to those in our proximity, whether we know them or not.
It starts at the base, in the home, with your partner or spouse, a child, or even your beloved pet. It starts with being grateful for their presence, offering them a loving environment of understanding and support, and then fitting all that you do to interact with them, with love.
Getting our houses in order speaks to this idea. 2 Kings 20:1 “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” When we get our houses in order, or rather, when we are using our hearts to filter all things; we can find moments of gratitude much easier when the surge of insta-reaction rushes over us. We can allow the reaction to rest within. (Which can save us from the possibility of having to apologize for our reactions, later.)
After I innumerate enough reasons to be grateful, I find that I no longer have reason to complain. Sometimes, the thing we want to complain about—the thing that triggered our response system—might just be the very thing that we need to see to remind ourselves what we are grateful for.