During the holiday season, I’d like to ponder the idea that faith is a gift; a gift that we can be grateful for. Though we may consider our faith as a part of who we are, in reality, not everyone is born with a disposition toward faith. So, if you consider yourself to be a person who has faith, one who trusts, consider that a trait worthy of your gratitude.
I define faith as a gift from God, the universe, and the people who most influence us, that enables us to trust in the future and extend our hope for desired outcomes. The emphasis here is on the gifting nature of faith. It is bestowed upon us; that is, unearned. My working premise is that faith can be developed and grown as people live into their deepest convictions. Recognizing that faith is a gift ought to make us grateful.
Gratitude has to do with appreciating what we have and are capable of doing. When I consider my health, family career, education, friends and other signs of well-being in my life, my heart opens with thankfulness. When I consider the basic safety and certainty in my life, I become aware of my good fortune, I discover a joy that I might not otherwise have. Importantly, I want to share my good fortune with others.
Recognizing yourself as one who has faith is reason to celebrate and be grateful. Faith enables to go into the world confidently and serve as agents of change and transformation. Faith empowers us to live boldly and without fear. Faith propels us to live in a way that we create goals, establish plans to accomplish those goals without worrying about the outcomes, then execute with confidence!
If you live like that, you ought to be grateful. Be grateful that you’re able to activate your faith on-demand. If life finds you situated in a place where executing your plans is more difficult, you can still be grateful. Find other elements in your life that provide you pleasure and satisfaction, even if only momentarily, and decide to offer thanks for those things.
I know how life can be hard to find gratitude. I used to work for a company called Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) in a job that was immensely satisfying. I traveled both domestically and abroad and met many outstanding people. But, at times, I worked with managers and supervisors who were ego-driven and borderline racist in their practices. I knew they treated me disparagingly. My peers validated this perception and experience. At times, I felt miserable about myself and my work. It was sometimes difficult to appreciate my leadership. But I always knew that life wasn’t all bad.
In my current work environments, my experience is totally different. I am treated by my managers with respect and dignity. I’m aware of this due to my previous experiences. The bad experiences help me to appreciate the good times now. When I do experience a rough patch, it is not like it was in the past. I’m also well aware that my “rough” would be many people’s dream problems.
I also know that my faith will get me through. In other words, I have a deep, abiding trust that what is coming down the pike from the future I will be able to deal with it and get through. More importantly, I have already chosen to make the most of any situation and opportunity.
The question remains. How do you grow gratitude for your faith? In a recent article in the New York Times, author Arthur C. Brooks offers some guidelines for developing gratitude, in general. You can apply these to your faith.
First, “give thanks privately.” Think of ways that your faith serves your. You may have a practice of thanking God, or the universe, for your blessings automatically when good things happen to you. Or maybe, you feel the universe has been particularly kind to you. Give thanks in a private way.
Second, begin offering “exterior gratitude,” which means publicly saying thanks for your good tidings. Brooks suggests you make your gratitude explicit by sending friends, family and colleagues emails “thanking them for what they do.”
And finally, find ways to be grateful for the mundane. Some things don’t seem to matter much to your everyday existence, like the sound of birds in the morning, clouds in the sky (not rain), or “the fragment of a song that reminds you of when you were a kid.” That last one happens to me all of the time!
I commend this strategy to you as a practical way of living a gratitude-filled life. If you practice these ideas, soon you’ll be feeling more grateful, too. No better time to do this than in the holiday season. By this time next year, you’ll be a pro!
I am compelled to remind you that I am eternally grateful to you for taking your time to read this and other of my blog posts. Knowing that you devoted some time and attention to my ideas and passion warms my heart. I’m even more grateful if you share my posts with your friends.
Dr. Xolani Kacela