"What do you do when it just seems really hard to be grateful?" my friend asked.
I had called just to say hi, and while we were having a nice lighthearted chat, she suddenly grew serious. Her voice dropped slightly, and she spoke every word of that question slowly, with meaning.
What do I do when I know that being specifically and consciously grateful for the good in my life would help to resolve a situation, but I'm finding it just so hard to feel grateful? The clear, honest answer was immediately apparent.
"Complain," I said.
She started to laugh, and I did too, caught by the truth.
But as we enjoyed the laugh earned by difficulties we each had faced, we were both still thinking about a better answer. How is it possible to be grateful when a problem has gone on too long, when circumstances are too miserable, when we're right and we know it - but being right isn't enough - or when we've made mistakes and don't know how to fix them? What to do when life just plain hurts?
Genuine gratitude comes with a promise; it won't leave your life in the same place. It changes things - guaranteed. It's worth the effort. Knowing that is the first step.
There's an art to gratitude. There's also a science to it. The art consists wholly in the doing of it. Because there is only one you, there will be a particular style, color, tone, and honesty to the thankfulness in your heart, as there is a particular individuality expressed in everything about you. That's the art of it.
Find something you are grateful for. It doesn't have to be big. With swimming, you can learn a bit of the "how to" on the beach, but eventually you've got to get in the water. You simply must do it. With gratitude, find somewhere to begin immediately - the breeze, the pillow under your head, a glass of water, anything. Then think of one more thing, then another. There will always be more.
The science lies in the fact that the reason for gratitude does exist. The book of I Peter in the Bible counsels: "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you the reason of the hope that is in you" (3:15). And the distance between hope and gratitude is short indeed.
Many people agree that life is basically good, and the elements of gratitude are at hand. Look for some glimmer of good, and begin there - the proverbial "Look on the bright side."
But there reaches a point where "basically good" is not good enough. That's what my friend meant. I've been there, and maybe you have too.
The power of gratitude rests on something deeper than bright-side thinking. It rests on the fact that life is actually better than "basically good." Gratitude taps a deeper fact.
Good is not in a balancing act with evil. Good is the fabric, the structure, the very body of God; and by any stretch of logic, God is either infinite or nonexistent. That fact has the power to deflate and defeat the fear of evil. Fear gives evil all the power it could ever claim to have.
Gratitude is the witness of some element of good. Large, small, major, or trivial, it almost doesn't matter - because any element of good in our consciousness is evidence of the presence of God. That is an amazing promise. It brings gratitude to an attainable level even on the crabbiest of days, or under the most difficult circumstances. Any one small evidence of good becomes proof positive of the Almighty God, Giver of life, Blesser of all humanity, Source of all love, safety, honor, and health. The human heart needs to know that God is real. God is present. God is trustworthy.
When we know that the smallest gratitude links with the fullness of Almighty God, then a grateful heart is within reach. And its blessings are sure, here and now.
Good is natural and primitive.
Mary Baker Eddy
(Founder of Christian Science)