Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Grace of Gratitude

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say "thank you?"  
                                             -         William A. Ward

A few weeks ago I attended a Billy Idol concert. At the end of his performance he screamed into the microphone. “Thank you for making my life so *bleepin’* great!” It made me think of my own life and all the times I’ve wanted to shout the same thing, but haven’t. This grace may be the most poignant to me because of this. I have so many things to be grateful for that sometimes it’s difficult to realize how awesome my life really is.

Wicca is essentially about gratitude. As Wiccans we worship the Divine in all things and therefore, should have gratitude for all things. Our holidays revolve around the thankfulness for the cycles of the year and the coming of the seasons. We celebrate harvests and the beginning of each new moon. We are gracious for the energy that flows through us and the universe.

Yet, how often do we take things for granted? How often do Wiccans bow before each meal to say Grace? The Lord and Lady have given us this beautiful gift of life and everything that makes it what it is, so why not say thank you once and a while. In gratitude there is prayer. Instead of asking the Gods for favors whenever you speak with them, thank them for what you already have. I think all of us are guilty of asking and asking, prayer that is full of hope instead of plain worship. We need to honor the Gods for what they have provided instead of always asking for more. As Meister Eckhart says, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was “thank you,” that would suffice.”

Think of sacrifice. For everyone and everything that has sacrificed itself, whether in time or money, to sustain us as food or to teach us something new, anything that has given to us in some way has sacrificed themselves to do it in another. When I eat a piece of meat, I know that an animal sacrificed its life. When I buy something at a store, I know that someone sacrificed time to make the product I am buying. Everything I have in life is made possible for me through someone or something else’s sacrifice and I should be thankful for that.
Being thankful for things makes us realize what we have. Gratefulness can also help increase positive feelings and alleviate traumatic memories. According to Philip Watkins, an Eastern Washington University psychologist, when we practice being grateful, troublesome thoughts pop up less frequently and with less intensity, which suggests that gratitude may enhance emotional healing, and  help the brain fully process events. Gratitude can also increase our feelings of joy and happiness. The more thankful we are, the more we find things to be thankful for.

Sometimes it can be very difficult to be thankful for certain things. Sometimes it can be really hard. Everyone has problems in their lives that they wish weren’t there. But having a keen sense of gratitude can often allow us to feel uplifted in dire situations. When you look at all the things you do have versus what is currently causing strife, the positives often outweigh the negative. If we are thankful for the good in our lives, instead of dwelling only on the bad, we may be able to overcome feelings of hopelessness and loss. Gratitude can also cause us to improve upon other graces such as compassion and forgiveness as well as other virtues in our lives. Want more patience? Work on gratitude. Want more happiness? Work on gratitude.
It is also important that as Wiccans, we let those who have helped us know it. Saying thank you is part of gratitude. When someone or something has made us happy or helped us in some way, simply being thankful for them or even doing a ritual of thankfulness doesn’t always cut it. People need validation for the things they have done and saying thank you to someone is just one way of giving them the recognition they need and deserve.

Let us think on these things.

“Saying "thank you" is something that we need to be taught. Babies do not say thank you for their milk, or for being changed, or for any of the amazingly hard work that goes into keeping them alive and showing them they are loved.... Just as we need to learn to walk and to speak and to read and write, we need to learn how to show gratitude.... We need to learn how to say thank you.... The first lesson in saying thank you is to recognize that what you have is a gift."
— The Rev. Allan Farris, St. James Presbyterian Church, Winnipeg

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