Sunday, January 20, 2019

Gratitude Does Not Come From Comparison.

We all know that comparing ourselves to other is not good. But there's a trend I see happening, a trend that I am so sick of seeing promoted, that I am finally going to try and tackle it here on my blog. It will by no means be exhaustive, but I hope it gets your wheels turning.

When you are doing something wrong, or bad, or destructive, we are usually given advice on how to turn it around. We are commonly told to do the opposite of whatever it is. If you are thinking destructive thoughts about yourself, think positive instead. If you are feeling jealous about someone, pray for their well-being. If you are having trouble liking someone, serve them to help guide your heart in the right direction.

Advice for feeling grateful is all over the place. One method for feeling more grateful is to look at how much you have, but it usually turns to looking at what you have compared to others. This never sits well with me, and yesterday I ran into another instance. I'm reading a book on how to raise grateful children, and the author tells of a time when her children were being crabby and cranky several days after Christmas. Her and her husband decided that her children needed to serve.

At first I agreed, but I was thinking they would serve each other. Then she describes that her children needed to see how little other people had to give them a more accurate depiction of how much they had to be grateful for. And this is where I kind of lose my cool.

The less fortunate should not be used as a tool to magically produce our family's well-being.

This is not how gratitude ought to be taught!

We are ungrateful when we think we deserve to have more than we possess, or when we think what we have isn't enough. Yes, we often form what we think we ought to have around what other people have, and that is comparison. Being grateful for what we have based on how little other people have or how hard other people's lives are is just another form of comparison!

So yes, we still need to try to correct ourselves by doing the opposite of ingratitude, but the example above is not the opposite, it's just backwards. The opposite of ingratitude is gratitude, but the perspective by which we gain it should not be getting a better perspective of the less fortunate. We should never serve the poor in order to learn a lesson about how much we really have. We should serve the poor because we want to bless the poor, because we want to love them, because we want to show them that they are not alone and left destitute.

Our twisted reasons for serving the poor are probably why the poor are not served quite so often. It's foolish and wrong to let our family get their dose of gratitude and then go on its merry way.

The only way to have true, lasting gratitude is to know with absolute certainty that what we have now, and what we will have later, will always be enough. Not because other people have less, but because we trust that our God will grant us "all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). The problem is we don't want that. We don't always want the kind of life He wants for us. That verse continues on that it is through the knowledge of God, the one who calls us to His own excellence and glory, that we find everything we need.

Gratitude is not won by seeing how little other people have, or how much we have compared to others. It's won by seeing that what God gives us is enough.

Listing what you are grateful for is a powerful tool to straighten out your mind, but someday it might be that the only things you can list and are things not in this world. If we trust only the things we have here and now to bring us gratitude, we are banking on something temporal, and as Christians, our gratitude needs to be built on something far more sturdy.

So please don't tell your kids to be grateful because someone else has less; it's a comparison trap. Don't go serve the poor because your want your children to see how fortunate they are compared to the homeless or the struggling; it's selfish. Tell your kids they can be grateful that God will provide for them everything they need to live for Him, and then encourage them to set their hearts on that kind of life; a life that lives free from the cares of the world. Not free from caring about the world, but free from caring about what they get from the world.

Stop comparing backwards. Start being grateful for all the things we can only get from God. 

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17

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