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What prevents us from being grateful?

We do not instinctively know how to be grateful. We are not born with a grateful heart. Instead we are born grasping for what we want. One of the earliest words a child learns is the word “mine.” Children have to be taught to say thank you and need to be repeatedly reminded that the gifts they receive are from the goodness of others. Many a parent has had to say to their child: “Tell grandmother, thank you.” The child is happy with the gift, but often gives no thought that it is a gift, freely given to them by someone else.
Unfortunately, we adults often need to learn and relearn gratitude. We can be no better than little children in realizing the bountiful gifts God freely gives to us out of love. Allow me to invite us to reflect on a few things which might keep us from being grateful.
The first thing which can prevent us from being grateful for all the blessings we have is that we are blind to our blessings. There is an old expression that we do not appreciate what we have until we lose it. There is a tendency to take for granted the things we enjoy and not see them as the blessings they truly are to us. Sometimes we need to stop and reflect so we can see how fortunate we are. On many occasions I have heard someone going through a dark and difficult time in their lives say: “I have nothing to be grateful for.” A lady once told me this and I asked her that when she went home to take a piece of paper and write down seven things for which she was grateful. She told me that she doubted she could think of seven things. To her credit, the next day she called me and told me that when she got home she tried to write down seven things. She told me that she stopped after she filled up two pages as she realized how many things she had in her life for which to be grateful. We too should ask God to open our eyes to see how many gifts God has showered upon us, no matter how difficult times may seem.
Another thing which works against gratitude is when we have the attitude that we deserve our blessings because we worked hard for them. There can be a sense in our hearts that we are entitled to the good things in our lives because we worked hard to develop our talents which made it possible to acquire our blessings. There is just enough truth in this attitude to make it so dangerous. I remember a football quarterback who received a great honor. In accepting the recognition, he did not thank his coaches (past and present) or his teammates, or anyone else. Instead, he kept all the focus upon himself and what he had done. Sad. We are always indebted to others, and to God, for what we accomplish and for what we have. What we achieve we do with the God-given talents and strength we have received from Him and the help of others. Realizing this helps to keep us grounded in thankfulness.
A similar but distinct thing which works against a spirit of gratefulness is selfishness. We can have a tendency to think that the world owes us. Frankly, the world doesn’t owe us a thing. Instead we should be thankful for all we receive.
Another thing which prevents us from having a spirit of gratitude is when we think we have blessings only because we are lucky. There are those who think that their blessings do not come from their efforts or from anyone else’s. Blessings to them are just sheer luck or are determined by the stars or other influences. Such a heart cannot be thankful for there is no one to whom thanks should be given. Such an attitude allows one’s life to be determined by superstition and prevents an awareness of God’s love, and the many acts of others, who are part of our lives every day.
A further thing which works against gratitude is the feeling that we just do not have enough. There is an old saying: “How much money is enough? Just a little more than I have now.” The best example of this attitude is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Having only the day before given thanks for our abundance, we go shopping for more. We cannot appreciate the blessings without number and the mercies without end which enrich our lives when we always want more than we have.
Finally, another thing which works against a spirit of gratitude is that we want immediate and instant satisfaction for our wants. When we think we are waiting too long for something, we are often not grateful when we receive it. This can be true in our dealings with others. It is also true in our relationship with God. Instead of allowing ourselves to persevere in prayer and trust to the wisdom and love of God to answer our prayers when it is best for us, we become hardened and lacking gratitude, even when our prayers are answered.
This is not a complete list, but it may give a start to asking ourselves how grateful are our own hearts.

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