Gratitude: Unlocking the Fullness of Life

“To express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.” Thomas S. Monson

I hope everyone had a delightful Thanksgiving yesterday, surrounded by the comforts of family and food. What could be more basic to an enjoyable life? I love this holiday because focusing on gratitude is the path to experiencing true joy and fulfillment. When we are grateful, there is no way we can ever truly fail. And when we are not grateful, there is no way we can ever really succeed.

Of course, today is Black Friday, which has become its own holiday. Remember 15 or so years ago when everyone knew there were sales the day after Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t nearly the hype that it is now? People seem to be worshipping at the altar of commercialism. Black Friday is not a bad thing; I love a good sale and enjoy saving money. But seeing people much more impassioned on this day than they are on Thanksgiving makes me question their priorities, with them all whipped up into a frenzied haste to get their hands on as much stuff as possible. And I’m disappointed that Black Friday is starting to overstep its bounds and encroach on the once-commercial-free holiday of Thanksgiving.

This trend has me worried about our society’s mindset. The thing about acquisition of material things is that it can never be satisfied. Even when you finally get something you really wanted, there is always something better out there, always more. Focusing on what you want but don’t yet have will leave you perpetually unsatisfied, while gratitude for what you already have is the very definition of satisfying.

“If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.” ~ Lao Tzu

The opposite of scarcity is not abundance; it’s enough. Abundance and scarcity are simply two sides of the same coin. Having enough is always just right. Having enough is always the goal. Having more than enough can be stressful, if in a different way than having less than enough. Having an abundance or too much of something can also be a burden on our lives, stealing away precious resources of time, space, and energy.

“The gift of gratitude enables our appreciation for what we have to constrain desires for what we want. A grateful person is rich in contentment. An ungrateful person suffers in the poverty of endless discontentment.” ~ David A. Bednar

I hope that this time of the year, with so much focus on materialism, we can really notice and appreciate what we already have, and teach our children to do so as well. The best way to do this is by example. Children are excellent observers and will notice us disparaging our own vehicle and pointing out the other cars on the road that we wish we had. They will pay attention when we gaze longingly at big, beautiful homes while complaining that our own dwellings are too small, too old, too out-of-date, etc. Instead, let’s let them hear us expressing gratitude for what we already have.

“There are two things to aim at in life:  first, to get what you want; and after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.” ~ Logan Pearsall Smith

I wish that Thanksgiving was more than one day a year, not to gorge ourselves with food, but rather to take stock and appreciate what we have. Cultivating gratitude is probably the most important skill we can develop if we want to be happy, successful, and fulfilled. And don’t we all want that? Maybe in our family we will observe additional Thanksgivings on the 4th Thursday of every month. (Not that we have to eat turkey that often. Unless it’s smoked turkey, then yes, we do.) People like to make the comment during the holidays that we should carry the spirit of Christmas in our hearts all year long. Let’s also try to carry an attitude of gratitude each and every day.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie

(photo credit: David Swindler–Action Photo Tours)