Heart in the Clouds

Monday, November 15, 2010

Grateful - 11/15/10 (Five Qualities of Grateful People)


I had another opportunity come up to write a piece for RealZest.com. Here's the article. Let me know what you think!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It sounds cliche, but a holiday where gratitude is the main focus is my kind of celebration. I’ve been on a journey of gratitude for the last two years and it has changed my life completely. I have tried hard to stop putting my attention and energy into the things that don’t matter, or into drama and the people who cause it.

Since I decided to make gratitude one of the central focuses of my life, the thing I’ve found the most difficult is finding things to be thankful for when things aren’t going my way. I think that’s the most life-changing part about gratitude, though. When you begin to find within yourself the ability to be thankful in ALL circumstances and you choose to focus on the good things, you find that complaining and pessimism tend to leave a bad taste in your mouth, even when you see it in other people.

There are amazing qualities present in people who are grateful all the time. I sometimes find I’m just a tiny bit envious of those people because I’m still on my journey. But I know everyone is on a journey. I know I’ll likely never get there…wherever “there” is…but the more I focus on the good, the closer I will get to the heart of gratitude that God has for me. So in honor of my favorite time of year, here are the top five qualities that I notice in grateful people–qualities that I want to see in myself as I keep walking this road.

1. Truly grateful people are humble.
Humility isn’t something you can do. Perhaps this comes from my many years as a pastor’s kid, but I can pick out of a crowd the people who are trying to appear humble. Humility is a gift. It’s a flower that sprouts out of what looks like rocky, barren ground. It often takes root when a person goes through trials or personal downfalls. It’s the beauty that comes from knowing who you are and knowing you are loved, despite the fact that you’re flawed and imperfect and undeserving.

If someone you know claims to be humble…well, first of all, that’s a red flag right there…they’re not. They’re ESPECIALLY not humble if they spend all of their time complaining or whining or dramatically languishing whenever trouble comes. Humble people are happy givers who are fully aware and in awe of the grace bestowed on them. They know that God is faithful and they live their lives in that knowing. They aren’t self-seeking or self-absorbed. They have the ability to love, even when it’s not reasonable to do so. I want that gift. I’m not there yet…I likely will never be, but God is working on me.

2. Truly grateful people are content.
While I’ve been noticing this in myself occasionally as time goes on and I am choosing to focus on the good, but I am aware that I’m still a work in progress. I’m learning that contentment doesn’t equal complacency. Complacency is focusing on self. The dictionary definition is “uninformed self-satisfaction”. It’s about allowing myself to stay in one place because it’s easier. Focusing on gratitude takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them on God’s blessings and the positive sides to our circumstances.

Daily counting your blessings and all the good things present in your life makes you content. You realize you need nothing more than those few important things. You become less focused on fruitless ambitions and material things. You become more present in your life because you finally realize that life isn’t about what you get or about who you know. It’s about the blessings you already have and the people who love you.

3. Truly grateful people aren’t judgmental.
This is another place where the humility comes in. Grateful people are humble, thus they are less likely to judge other people. They already know what they have been given. Judgmental people are insecure, and they try to find fault with others because they are afraid of or blind to their own faults. When you’re deeply grateful, your focus is on the good. You even begin to focus on the good in other people. You’re not naive, but you allow love to overrule your fears and judgments.

4. Truly grateful people don’t gossip.
Gossip is intended to tear other people down. When you’re grateful and humble and content with your own life, you are less likely to speak badly of others, especially behind their backs. Something present in gossip are the issues of comparison and jealousy. We usually gossip about people to make ourselves look better…we’re not secure in our own significance.

Sadly, it’s human nature to compare ourselves to other people, in good ways and bad ways. Gratitude helps us go against the grain and make the choice to love ourselves enough to NOT compare. Choosing not to gossip is difficult at times. When you’re in a group and everyone is talking about one person, it’s hard not to enter into the conversation. It takes practice and it takes will.

5. On the flip side of that, truly grateful people are encouraging.
They are a pleasure to be around because you leave their presence feeling like everything is going to be okay. I know people like this–almost all of us do. They exude peace because they are the type of person to put a hand on your shoulder and lift your spirits with a kind word. We gravitate toward people who are encouraging. If you want friends, be friendly. If you want encouragement in your life, encourage!

So these are some of the qualities that I want in my life. Maybe you do, too. You don’t have to do what I do and blog about it or even write it down every day, but in the next month, try to focus on the good. Instead of putting your energy into negativity, try listing the positive things about your life. If there’s someone you want to stop gossiping about, try listing the good things about them and think about ways you can encourage them.

As I’ve said before, gratitude is a discipline. Just like any other discipline, it takes practice and hard work, but the end result is so worth the time. If you practice enough, I promise you’ll see little changes that will become big changes that will become LIFE changes as you keep going.

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