It’s November already and that means I get to tell ya’ll how to make the world better! The way the world is today, we think it’s almost impossible to pull off. But it’s really quite easy. Say what? All you have to do is increase just one human trait, so powerful that it alone can make people happier, and better more generous, more honest, more kind, ore everything good without a single lesson in self-righteous morality.
So, then, what is this one magical thing? Drumroll…It’s gratitude. Because you can’t be a happy person if you aren’t grateful. Almost everything good flows from gratitude, and almost everything bad flows from ingratitude. Ingratitude guarantees unhappiness. There isn’t an ungrateful happy person on earth. And there isn’t an ungrateful good person on earth. Lemme tell you why.
One reason is victimhood, something Jesus had little tolerance for. Abuse of others may be the single biggest reason people hurt other people, from bullying comments to mass murder. And our ugliest sin, getting even. People who think of themselves as victims tend to believe that because they’ve been hurt by others, so they feel justified in hurting others back.
Another reason ungrateful people aren’t good people is an underlying, seething, deep-seated anger. The ungrateful are angry, and angry people lash out at others. If ingratitude makes us unhappy and mean, then it figures, gratitude makes us happy and kind, right?
And so it does. Think of the times you’ve felt most grateful, were they not always accompanied by an uplifting feeling of happiness? Weren’t they also accompanied by a desire to bless others? Yep. Grateful people aren’t resentful., and thy refuse to be victimized by life’s ambushes.
It seems to me that sadly, the tendency today leans toward less gratitude, not more. For too many, existence becomes an exercise in getting, not giving. You know we can see a lot by observing. Lemme share a couple of things. One is: The less you feel owed, the more grateful you are for whatever you get and the happier you will be. That’s been my experience. And number two: the more you feel owed, the less happy you’ll be. That’s why kids who get whatever they want are usually less happy. There’s a word we use to describe them: spoiled. And who thinks of a spoiled kid as happy or kind?
We come to church to hear, not that life owes us something, but we owe God something. Namely, to make the world a better place. A happier place. An unselfish, less meaner place. Yes, there are a lot of ideas out there. To assess any idea, method, or policy, I suggest we ask ourselves. Will what I’m advocating bring an increase or decrease in gratitude? Then we can know whether what we stand for and believe in is something that will bring more goodness and happiness to the world, or less. And make God smile. Isn’t that the role of the church?
This Thanksgiving, if I were granted one wish, it would be that everybody cold be grateful because there’s an awful lot for us to be grateful for. Gratitude is the source of happiness, and goodness. And the more good and happy people there are walking around, the better our world will be. If you have ideas of achieving such a world without increasing gratitude, I’d like to hear them.