How To Be a Good Person

How To Be a Good Person November 28, 2019

I’m over at Stand Firm today, as I’m going to try to be a couple of days a week. Here is what I said about Thanksgiving.

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It’s not just me, I have confirmed my impression by complaining about it personally to everyone I know. It’s true, some members of the American family—lots actually—this year put up their Christmas decorations the day after Halloween. And, though I judged them heartily, even my dear friends whom I love and will eventually forgive for this travesty of wrongness, why wouldn’t they? The stuff has been available to buy since the season’s first pumpkin-spiced-latte drove away from the Starbucks window. Thanksgiving—or, as a clever friend called it the other day—Thankschristmas, is but a stumbling stone in the mad dash to celebrate the birth…no, that’s not right. To celebrate…what? What is Christmas the celebration of now?

But that is too big a question for today. Today is not merely one more bleak hour in the frantic lead up to the most stressful day of the year. Today is Thanksgiving, by decree of the government and everything, and is worth some attention of its own.

The trick, as I see it, is to back away from the overburdening command to “be grateful” or to “be thankful,” in a generalized kind of way, as if just experiencing some feeling of gratitude for the piles of stuff you’re tripping over in your living room and your life will magically cure you of all your misery. As if gratitude is just one of the many tools in your bucket of self-care, like getting your nails done and eating more fruit. Sure, being thankful would make you a less difficult person to be around, but being thankful is as impossible as being “less anxious.”

The problem is that a vague thankful feeling, or worse, “attitude of gratitude” is impossible to sustain, and, really, to what purpose? Why bother? I mean, I was never able to achieve it. I always have a bad, ungrateful attitude about everything. But so far that hasn’t set me outside of the kingdom of God, not yet anyway.

I don’t think overabundant feelings of thankfulness is the command, nor the point. The point is to first to find something to be grateful about, and then someone to be grateful to.

“O put your trust in God, for I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.” Psalm 43:6

The Bible—and psalms in particular—is replete with expressions of bitter unhappiness. I think nice people who are always cheerful and happy inside and profess to love the psalms must be lying, because the great thing about the psalms is how angry and sad their authors are. The verse before that one is, “Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? and why are you so disquieted within me?” The implication being that everything is not ok. Read the rest here!

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