Thanksgiving is a holiday name that says exactly what it stands for - giving thanks. Sounds easy enough. We can be thankful for our health, our relationships, our jobs. We run down the list of things in our lives that are working and gratefully acknowledge our good fortunes.
But, can we also be grateful for our misfortunes? Can we give thanks for the difficult people in our lives, for the loss of a job or a friend? Can we see the value in the hard times and the blessing in the pain? These are not so easy to appreciate. We'd just as soon eliminate the tough times instead of being grateful. What's to be grateful for?
Gratitude is not a function of good or bad luck. Thankfulness is a choice we make regardless of our circumstances. Thankfulness isn't about what we gain or lose...it's about what we have. Shall I be thankful that I lost my job? Perhaps I can't see the blessing in that when I'm standing so close to it. Maybe that will come later when a new and exciting path has opened before me because of this unwanted turn of events. But, losing my job isn't losing my self! Even jobless I can be thankful for all that I have and am.
But, the biggest barrier to feeling grateful is not forgiving. When bad things happen it's easy to feel cheated, upset, angry, fearful. And the next stop on that train is usually blame. Someone needs to be responsible for our misfortune. And who ever it is, even if it's ourselves, we withhold forgiveness. Many people feel that to forgive is to condone what happened. So we don't forgive because we don't like what happened and we don't want to make it seem like it's not a big deal. We hold grudges and resentments. "How could they!"
Is it possible to resent and be grateful at the same time? Try it, you tell me. Resenting is focusing on what you don't have, gratitude is focusing on what you DO have. Seems to me that those would be pretty impossible to do at the same time. So, why should we feel grateful for something that we feel is bad? Let's get some perspective....
Look back over your life. Specifically at things that, when they happened, you considered to be misfortunes - mistakes - problems. From where you sit now, is it possible to see that the bad thing that happened actually led to a greater good? Did you learn or grow? Were new doors opened? Can you see now that the incident was part of a bigger plan?
With our limited view of the future, it's almost impossible to judge anything as good or bad. Good and bad are meaningless without context. And usually a good part of that context hasn't happened yet.
There is a story about a very poor old man living in an even poorer community. His pride and joy were his son and his horse. In his community anyone with a horse was considered fortunate in deed.
One day the old man's horse ran away and the town's people came to console him at his bad fortune. He simply said, "Good fortune, bad fortune, who knows?" The town's folk thought this reaction was very odd and they walked away wondering about the old man's sanity.
The old man's son went looking for the horse the next day. Before dark he came riding back home on the wayward horse's back herding four other wild stallions back to his father's house. The town's people, upon hearing the news, all came to congratulate the old man on his good fortune. Again, he simply said, "Good fortune, bad fortune, who knows?" Again, the town's people were perplexed at his attitude.
The next day his son corralled one of the wild horses to mount it and break it. The horse threw the boy from his back and the son broke his foot in the fall. The town's people gathered to lament the father's bad fortune. "Good fortune, bad fortune, who knows?" said the father once more. By this time, the neighbors were certain of the old man's senility.
A few days later, the cavalry came riding through the town enlisting all able-bodied young men to fight in a battle. The old man's son was left behind because of his injury. Yes, the town's people came to revel in the father's good fortune. But his only response was, "Good fortune, bad fortune, who knows!"
This story never ends. And as you can see, good or bad was relative to what was known up to that point. The same holds true for our good and bad fortunes each and every day. Surely you've had something wonderful happen to you only to discover later that it was the worst thing that could have befallen you.
Look over your life at this time. Be grateful for all you have. Be grateful for what you don't have. Both play a part in the bigger story of your life. When something bad happens, look at it and forgive. Forgiveness will open your eyes to a reality beyond the moment and to the possibility of a greater good. To resent is to close your eyes to possibility and ONLY accept what you expected.
Some of our greatest fortunes come at us from unexpected directions. Good fortune, bad fortune, who knows???