A popular saying in Mexico and other countries says that “everyone speaks according to how he or she did at the party.” People’s opinions about an event change according to their experience. Our perspective determines the way we value or appreciate what happens around us. The way we view and interpret our circumstances is directly related to the satisfaction we have with our lives.
However, Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, has empirically proven what we all know from our experience. We tend to focus on negative things much more easily than on positive things. Naturally and without much effort on our part, we can notice mistakes in ourselves as well as in others. This tendency often causes us to live dissatisfied with our lives and to desire to be and have something more. Dr. Emmons demonstrated that, because of this negative tendency, we need to make an effort to focus on all the positive aspects that we push aside. The antidote to negativity is gratitude. An attitude of gratitude helps us to have a better quality of life and significantly improves our health in every way. Therefore, it is very important to have a gratitude journal in which we constantly reflect on all the good things we have.
The Bible reminds us to “pray continually” and “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:17-18). These two activities go together because we recognize that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). We have nothing that we have not received by divine grace. So, we must intentionally recognize all the good we have and thank God for it. The words grace and thanks (gracias in Spanish) always go together, and together, they help us to change our perspective of everything that happens around us. A grateful person is not one who naively calls the bad good but one who rescues the good above all else.
The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) wrote an excellent story called The Czar and the Shirt. Tolstoy was a Christian, and in this story, he shows us the importance of thankfulness despite our circumstances:
A Czar, being ill, said:
— I will give half my kingdom to the one who cures me!
Then all the wise men gathered together and held a meeting to cure the Czar, but they found no means.
One of them, however, declared that it was possible to cure the Czar.
–If there is a happy man on earth,” he said, “let him take off his shirt and put it on the Czar, and he will be cured.
The Czar searched for a happy man throughout his kingdom. The envoys of the sovereign scattered all over the kingdom, but they could not find a happy man. They did not find a man content with his lot.
The one was rich but sick; the other was healthy but poor; the one, rich and healthy, complained of his wife; the other of his children; all wished for something.
Late one night, the Czar’s son, passing in front of a poor hut, heard someone exclaim:
–“Thank God, I have worked and eaten well; what am I lacking?
The Czar’s son was filled with joy; he immediately ordered the man’s shirt to be brought to him, to whom, in return, he was to receive as much money as he demanded.
The envoys hurried to the man’s house to take his shirt, but the happy man was so poor that he had no shirt.
This Thanksgiving week and in the weeks ahead that tend to become so busy, I invite you to set aside a few minutes each day to be thankful for all the good things we have. For every negative feeling or perspective, try to find at least one or two positive things and thank God for them. I am convinced that your outlook on life will change, and everyone around you will notice and come to your call, even if it is silent of “Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me” (Psalm 66:16)
Nota: Puede encontrar la versión en español aquí: