Posted July 18, 2013:
The Power of Gratitude

by Marysia Kowalchyk.

Have you ever noticed that grateful people are generally happy people?

There was a time when I believed that if I were happy, then I could be grateful. But I have discovered that, in fact, it is the other way around. Often it is gratitude that makes one happy.

I am not by nature a grateful person—at least I didn’t start out that way. I grew up in a home where my father was critical and generally negative about almost everything. So I come by resentment, criticism, and scepticism naturally. I also have a tendency to see the darker side of life.

My negativity caused me to believe that life would always be difficult, and at times, it resulted in depression.

But some years ago, I learned from a wise woman that it is precisely my attitude of negative "seeing" that had resulted in my unhappiness.

I learned that what I thought—the dialogue going on in my head—led to what I was feeling. This was a profound revelation that changed my life. In fact, it was one of the most important insights in my spiritual life.

But how does one change a life-time of negative attitudes and patterns of thinking?

The wise woman said, "Say thank you until you mean it. If you say it long enough, you will believe it."

So I tried it. I worked at being grateful. Instead of letting myself go into my usual negative stance or trying to battle my negativity directly, I began to choose to "not go there."

The advice from the old spiritual masters to "guard your thoughts" took on new and deeper meaning.

To live in gratitude is to live in truth. Our Faith tells me of God’s incredible love. God, who created me, is constantly pouring out his love on me; my very life, my very breath, comes from him. If I choose to live in this knowledge, how can I not be grateful?

Then, the more grateful I become, the more aware I become of God’s love and blessing. And then my heart becomes more disposed to receive even more blessings.

If, on the other hand, I am resentful or critical, I close my heart to receiving his love.

When I thank God for his blessings, I am acknowledging who he really is—the loving Father. This puts my heart in a right relationship with God, and teaches me humility.

I have found that one way of living out this gratitude is to adopt an attitude of blessing.

Several years ago, I heard a tape by Brother David Stendl-Rast in which he advocates blessing all that is, as it is. He believes that in order to be fully alive, we must both receive and give blessings.

True gratitude, he said, is the full response of the human heart to all that is given: not to long for things to be better and more pleasant but to accept and bless all that is, just as it is.

I began to give blessings as a way to say yes to life.

If, for example, someone keeps me waiting, I thank God for the time I’ve been given to relax… or pray, and I bless the person who keeps me waiting. I am also learning to bless the person who annoys me, and when I turn on the faucet, to bless those who lack sufficient clean water.

Each day and each moment can become an occasion to bless. And I came to realize that as I enter into blessing others, I am simply entering into God’s continual stream of blessings and love. Blessing all that is, as it is, is a way of entering more deeply into his heart and his kingdom.

Gratitude is particularly important when I am feeling low or depressed. It can change the atmosphere of my heart.

The following quote from Bishop Ignatii Brianchaninov, a Russian staretz (a wise and holy man or woman) of the past century, has encouraged me many times.

"Often in time of sorrowful depressions, as well in the time of rejoicing, it is necessary to repeat a word of thanksgiving to God, as often and as long as the Jesus Prayer: ‘Glory to God for everything’ and then again ‘Glory to God for everything.’

With this prayer, murmuring departs from the heart, confusion disappears, and peace begins to settle into the heart, and joy… The Lord has light which chases away any kind of confusion and annoyance."

Am I always grateful and happy? No, not all the time. But I am much more grateful and a lot more peaceful than I used to be, and my gratitude continues to grow.

But by far, the greatest blessing of a more grateful heart has been a much deeper and more loving relationship with the Lord.


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