“Complaining leads to bitterness and destruction. Gratitude leads to life and healing.”
In Portuguese, the word thanksgiving is translated as “actions of gratitude.” It is hard to imagine what kind of actions these might be. As far as I have always understood, thanksgiving (or being grateful) is a state of mind, not an action.
A Gratitude Adjustment
When circumstances become overwhelming beyond my control, and my human tendency is to complain, a “gratitude adjustment” is necessary. I take stock of what is going on and make a conscious determination to give thanks rather than complain because the more I live, the more I understand that gratitude is everything. Complaining turns into bitterness and bitterness leads you down a slippery slope of destruction. Life is too short to be spent in bitterness. Gratitude, however, turns into joy and joy brings life, peace, and healing.
Who to Be Grateful Towards?
You may ask, “What is there to be grateful for?”
For many, including me, it is not “what” but “whom.” Gratitude is expressed in a relationship towards someone, not towards the circumstances themselves. In my case, I express it first towards God, the Father of my spirit and the creator of my life. I also express it towards my family and friends.
Now, let’s be honest here, the reason why I called it a “gratitude adjustment,” is because at the first sign of any duress, my instinct is to be upset and hopeless. However, as with anything in life, the more you practice, the better you get at it.
Practicing gratitude opens the door to a multitude of blessings, even if you don’t witness the effects immediately. Blessings are not necessarily material things. A grateful heart sees the blessing in all circumstances!
Actions of Gratitude
So, back to the action: what are the “actions of gratitude?” I thought about it for a while and it finally dawned on me that these are not actions you perform, but rather the sum of your destiny which is meant to help others. I realize that this sentence makes no sense without an explanation so let me use a story to illustrate it.
This story has been told throughout generations to billions and billions of people; it has more recently become a successful Broadway play and released as an animated film. It is the story of a little boy named Joseph. For Dreamworks, he is the “King of Dreams!” And he does wear “The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” on Broadway.
What is it about this young man that makes his story so powerful? Why will it continue to be told for generations to come? He understood that gratitude is everything. His circumstances were such that by normal terms he had more than every right to become a bitter, ungrateful man.
From a Dark Prison to a Shiny Palace
To summarize, he was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, sexually harassed, unjustly accused by his master’s wife, and finally, left to rot in a dark, filthy jail. For about thirteen years he had no control over his life. Throughout it all he had to keep adjusting his state of gratitude.
In less than twenty-four hours he went from prison to the palace. When Joseph was released and put in charge of an entire country—the super power of its time—he understood why all the horrendous suffering.
His famous quote: “What you intended for evil, God meant for good,” made me understand that “actions of gratitude” are not something you perform, but something you become: a source of hope and provision to few or to many.
Joseph saved millions from suffering one of the most horrific types of death: starvation. His very life became defined by what I now understand as “actions of gratitude.” By being grateful to his God, trusting that He has a plan, Joseph’s life became a powerful action that saved nations. If each one of us can have this gratitude adjustment, our very lives will become these “actions” destined to save millions.
Always Look on the Bright Side
“Actions of Gratitude” are different than random acts of kindness where you perform a few or various kind deeds to others. “Actions of Gratitude” are the result of your state of gratitude, which transforms the sum of your life, your very destiny, into one or many actions that can save one or many.
Monty Python had it right: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Try singing it when you are down. It will bring a smile to your face. Although your circumstances may seem the worst possible, I guarantee you that there is someone near or far in a worse condition than you. As my dad used to say, “It could be worse!” You may not directly affect that someone but by expressing gratitude in life you will be generating life. Life is proliferate and vibrant, so not only will you bring life to yourself but you will exude life to others.
Make Gratitude Contagious
Let’s make gratitude contagious. Remember: Complaining leads to bitterness and destruction. Gratitude leads to life and healing. I say it is time for life and healing for mankind as individuals and collectively.
Help this hashtag trend by Thanksgiving Day: #gratitudeiseverything — the company of thankful hearts is destined to save billions!
This article was originally published in LIVING HEALTH Magazine, November 2014 Edition and it is also found on Medium.com.