By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 11/20/11
Much of the space dedicated to this section of the paper is
spent in analyzing, opining, and criticizing elements of the body politic and
problems with the world, our nation, and our community. In spite of all that we
find that needs fixing around us, one of the worst things we could do is to be
ungrateful for all that we should be thankful for.
It’s sometimes difficult to think in those terms. We are
often overwhelmed at the daunting challenges and vicissitudes of life that we
face on a daily basis. Problems with health, the loss of a loved one, financial
woes, the loss of a job, problems with a marriage or with children, often
consume us emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Yet somehow we find
ways to deal with our personal crucibles, to surmount our challenges, and crest
The human spirit, if not doused with loss of hope, can be
indomitable. We find ways to deal with, overcome, and survive our ordeals. We
find solutions to our woes and answers to life’s tough questions. Often such
resolution comes from insights, counsel, and wisdom from a loved one. Other
times they come from unseen founts of wisdom and loving arms of solace after
earnest and heartfelt pleadings to our Maker.
But as arduous and challenging as life can be, for all of us
in one way or another, there is always much to be grateful for. Come
Thanksgiving Day, we may have naught for a family dinner, but kind, generous
friends or members of the community will bid you join their community feast.
We may be of bad health, but hopefully some things are still
working fine. We may be struggling financially, but we’re still together as a
family. We may have a child struggling with his or her own inner demons, yet as
long as there is love, there is hope. To everything there is a silver lining.
It may be obscured by our preoccupation with our trials, but it’s there.
Sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find it.
I’m convinced that many of the social and cultural problems
we face today are the result of a loss of a collective sense of gratitude.
Rather than being grateful for what we have and the blessings that we enjoy,
although sparse they may sometimes seem to us, we focus on what we don’t have,
or what we think we deserve or we’re entitled to. This lack of gratitude is
concomitant with a narcissism and egoism, and reveals a deep character flaw of
absence of humility.
In my estimation, no one has captured this sentiment better
than a former president of the LDS Church. Gordon Hinkley said some years ago,
“Our society is afflicted by a spirit of thoughtless arrogance unbecoming those
who have been so magnificently blessed. How grateful we should be for the
bounties we enjoy. Absence of gratitude is the mark of the narrow, uneducated
mind. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge and the ignorance of self-sufficiency. It
expresses itself in ugly egotism and frequently in wanton mischief....
"Where there is appreciation, there is courtesy, there
is concern for the rights and property of others. Without appreciation, there
is arrogance and evil. Where there is gratitude, there is humility, as opposed
In a rather simplistic fashion, we have the proverbial
conundrum of whether the glass is half full, or half empty. In our individual
lives, it all depends on how we choose to look at things, and whether we choose
to focus on the deficiencies in our lives or on the bounties that we enjoy. And
that’s all a matter of attitude.
The evangelical author and pastor, Chuck Swindoll, made a
statement years ago that has profoundly shaped my perspective about life, and
about gratitude itself. He said, “The longer I live, the more I realize the
impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It
is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances,
than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is
more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a
company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice
everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change
our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We
cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one
string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what
happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in
charge of our Attitudes.”
May we all choose an attitude of gratitude, looking for the
light at the end of the tunnel, and the silver lining to the dark and ominous
clouds in our lives. May we express our gratitude to one another, manifest by
acts of courtesy and respect. And most importantly, may we express daily our
immense dependence upon, and gratitude to God. Not just for this Thanksgiving
season, but for everyday of our lives.