by Ella Corey
I found this TED talk <David Steindl – “Want to be Happy? – Be Grateful“> to be especially relevant this season. With Thanksgiving here already, thankfulness is almost always the topic of discussion. It’s easy to be thankful this one day or month out of the year, but God calls us to be grateful always, no matter what the circumstance. In this video Brother David Steindl-Rast addresses how to live a life of gratitude, thus giving us to true happiness.
David claims that true gratefulness is achieved when we experience two things that come together. These are when we receive something valuable and when it is freely given to us. This valuable thing cannot be bought or earned and must be a gift. When these two things come together (something of value and a free gift) that is when true gratefulness rises in our heart. Along with this gratefulness, then, will come happiness.
But when does this happen?
The key, he says, is to live gratefully. If we only experience gratefulness every once in a while we are not living a grateful life. But how can we always be grateful? By realizing that we are given a free gift of value at every moment. Each moment brings opportunity at completely no cost. Although what he doesn’t address is, I think, the greatest gift of all. While, being a monk, he definitely alluded to it, he never came out and said that we have been given the gift of salvation from Christ. We are completely undeserving of this valuable gift and it has been given to us for free. For this we are to be grateful at every moment of our lives.
What about missed opportunity?
Steindl-Rast then goes on to explain that every moment is a new opportunity and the key to happiness is seizing every opportunity. Then we can be grateful for this gift. Once we miss an opportunity, there is always another to fix it in the next moment. This identically resembles Christ’s forgiveness. We are constantly given second chances, new opportunities, to pull ourselves together. There is no limit to Christ’s forgiveness, and you will never run out of opportunities.
So can we be grateful for everything?
What about the evil things? What about war and violence or the loss of a close friend? Are we to be grateful for these things? No, claims Steindl-Rast. We can be grateful in every given moment for opportunity, not grateful for everything. Most of the time what is given to us is the opportunity to enjoy, and we miss it because we are rushing through life. We are to seizing these opportunities and appreciate where God has placed us in life. Sometimes difficult things are given to us so we have the challenge to rise to the opportunity and find peace. “The road to peace is not a sprint, but a marathon.” So many difficult times are just opportunities in disguise. A tough time for a friend is an opportunity for you to love and support one-another. An argument against your beliefs is an opportunity to stand up for your convictions. We need to have the outlook that every moment is an opportunity and do our best to seize them. Those who avail themselves of those opportunities make something out of life and those who fail still get another opportunity.
So how can we live gratefully?
Brother David breaks it down into three steps: stop, look, go.
Stop: We often miss opportunities because we don’t stop; we rush. Sometimes we have to give ourselves time to slow down and rest in God to see what He has in store for us.
Look: Open your eyes and remind yourself of the richness that God has given you. Enjoy the gifts of God and open your heart to opportunities to give to others.
Go: opportunities will invite you to do something, take one and be creative. Yes, it can be difficult, but it will stretch and grow you in completely new ways.
How can this change your world?
Steindl-Rast puts it simply: if you’re grateful, you’re not fearful. Your grateful life will affect your mood and wellness, and, most importantly, your relationship with Christ. And it is this that will bring you the truest joy.