[Advice] How to Have Gratitude

Remember how easy it was to say “thank you” when you were a child and you had nothing to lose?

Yeah…neither do we…

And the thing is, as we become fully autonomous adults, with our own minds, motivations, and needs, it becomes less easy than it ever was in childhood.

We can talk all we want about the history of the Pilgrims, the fractious nature of their relationship with Native Tribes, or even if they should’ve left Europe in the first place, but underlying all of the dogmatic anger and resentment against the Pilgrims in our contemporary culture (and in some cases, against this day), is one simple fact:

It’s really, really hard to humble ourselves to say the words “thank you.”

It’s also really, really hard as adults to be thankful when we believe inherently that our own power gets us what we have, rather than working collaboratively in a community with others, creating “good enough” governments, and resolving arguments without resorting to violence.

It’s really, really hard to have a heart of gratefulness when we feel that our ideas, our emotions, and even our identities have been changed, stolen, appropriated, or even wiped out all together.

It’s really, really hard to say “thank you” when we feel that the system and structure is the one to whom we are giving thanks (it’s not) rather than the Immovable Force behind the system and structure (which we may—or may not—believe in).

It’s really, really hard to understand that saying “thank you” is not about how we feel today, tomorrow, or even how we felt in the past. Instead, having a heart of gratitude is about doing what’s right no matter what our ephemeral and fleeting feelings may be.

All of this is hard. And it should come as no surprise that it’s always been hard.

Both at the beginning of celebrating this thing called Thanksgiving Day, and all the way through today, two hundred and twenty-seven years later.

But if we get through this day, then the long spiral of renewal toward next year becomes one that happens without the baggage of resentment, conflict, and strife.

HIT Piece 11.22.2016

The power of stories is undeniable, particularly around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Stories about the Pilgrims.

Stories about the country today.

Stories about the country yesterday.

Stories about the neighborhood.

Stories about the family.

Thanksgiving is a curious holiday, because at its root, it is about thanking God (who the Pilgrims believed in, by the way) and about sharing the overflow (which the Pilgrims did with each other and the Native tribes that surrounded them).

Gratitude and sharing are at the core of the stories we tell each other on Thanksgiving.

But it is hard to be full of gratitude (or even to share for that matter) when there is conflict, strife, oppression (psychological or otherwise) or when there are outside signals that create meaningless internal noise.

The distractions from getting to the root of your story, are a story in and of themselves. But those distractions, many of which are focused on conflict, strife, and oppression, are not the core story of the holiday.

Thankfulness is a story.

Gratitude is an attitude. And a story.

Sharing is a story.

The power of the stories we tell—and the power of the stories we don’t tell—lies at the core of giving thanks, being grateful, and sharing with others.

HIT Piece 11.24.2015

Having an “attitude of gratitude” is what Thanksgiving is all about.

But, it’s hard to demonstrate (and act on) gratitude in the hardest mission field in the world, when the average person is wealthier, healthier, and wiser than just three short generations ago.

Gratitude comes from knowing from whom everything comes, and knowing to whom to say “thank you” to. But too often, two things prevent people from saying “thank you” to each other:




Expectations I’ve addressed in this space before, but around Thanksgiving, they are particularly pernicious in the context of the “more” revolution. This has occurred subtly over the last few years in America and consists of a combination of commercialism, comfort, and cheap money. With these three elements in place, the average person wants more than they have, and struggles to find the meaning in having less than they think that they should have.

Humility is the cure for all of this, and having an “attitude of gratitude” is the way that Thanksgiving should be celebrated, as much for what you have been gifted with having—and for what has been kept away.

I’ll be thankful for both, even as I realize that the cranberry sauce has stuffing in it.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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