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How do we acquire gratitude?

Published: Sunday, Nov. 21 2010 5:00 a.m. MST

Do we have to experience sickness before we can genuinely appreciate good health? Do we have to be cooped up in a house, a mine or a prison to appreciate freedom and light? Do we have to lose our job or physical ability to work, to appreciate the blessing of work? Do we have to lose a friend, family member, or a relationship before we truly appreciate them? Do we have to have a storm or a tornado to appreciate good weather? Do we have to visit the less fortunate to appreciate the luxuries of home? Do we have to sacrifice for others before we can fully appreciate those who have sacrificed for us?

I have often wondered if we can acquire life-changing gratitude, without having to experience trials first hand. Honestly, I want to have the same gratitude that the service men have for our country, without serving in a war. I want the same gratitude for life that a cancer survivor has, without going through cancer. I want the same gratitude that those who have lost a loved one have, before I lose a loved one. I want to be grateful for my body, without having to go through a physical tragedy or severe pain.

The recent events of the mine workers, who were rescued in Chile, were a great reminder of the blessings of freedom, fresh air, food, a support system, etc. I know that people had deep feelings of gratitude as the miners were rescued one by one. Did those feelings linger, did they change the way we conducted our lives, or did they only last until the final miner was rescued?  

I remember listening to a speaker who had suffered a stroke on one side of her body; she was no longer preoccupied with her extra pounds, her focus was now on being able to smile from ear to ear, walking on both feet, and being able to hug with both arms.

Do we women have to have a stroke or lose the function of our body, to appreciate our size, whatever that might be?  

I have a friend who has lost virtually everything due to the downturn in the economy. Her husband lost his business; they lost their home and are living in their daughter's basement. This was not only a challenge but very humbling. But that was not all, after they lost their material possessions, she was diagnosed with cancer. Instantly, all those things they lost became insignificant; now her life was hanging in the balance. 

She is surviving cancer and grateful for all that they have: new plumbing in the basement of her daughter's house, time with grandkids, ability to go back to school and so much more. It was all relative, once her life was at stake, the material things became insignificant. She is living with the sweetness of life-changing gratitude. 

I have a large display of the Humility Cycle on the wall in my basement. It is similar to the Pride Cycle in the Book of Mormon. The Pride Cycle refers to the fact that the Nephites were obedient to the Lord, and then they were abundantly blessed; they responded with pride for their newfound blessings, at which time the Lord would humble them, withhold blessings and call them to repentance. It is actually quite fascinating to read how the cycle continues to repeat itself over and over, leaving the reader to wonder if they were learning anything from their mistakes.

The difference in the Humility Cycle is that gratitude replaces pride. As soon as we receive blessings, we don't spend a minute thinking that we earned them, or take the credit, or think that we are better than anyone else, or that it is ours to keep, but instead we fall to our knees in gratitude for our blessings. Our humility increases our desire to be obedient, which reaps further blessings, etc. It is a cycle that breeds success, versus personal destruction.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "Where there is gratitude, there is humility".   

True gratitude changes our soul, it softens our heart, it ignores our ego, it reminds us to reach out to others, it helps to minimize our trials; and it causes us to turn to our Heavenly Father. 

Brent Top said, "Gratitude saves us from ourselves.  It's hard to say, 'Woe is me' at the same time you are saying 'How thankful I am'."

After all these questions and thoughts on gratitude, I think that I have come to the opinion that our most heartfelt and continued gratitude is a result of our trials and losses in our lives. 

However, I have met those who are genuinely and humbly grateful, and have not passed through all of life's tragedies and trials, but they nurture a heart of sincere gratitude. I believe that if we humble our heart and submit ourselves to the Lord, gratitude will emerge. Yes, "where there is gratitude there is humility," and I believe that where there is humility, there you can find gratitude.   

Thanksgiving is a reminder to be a grateful people. There will be those who will approach it with deeper gratitude as they are in the middle of painful and concerning trials. For those whose circumstances are quite comfortable right now, their humility will be a key to feeling sincere and life changing gratitude.

Either way, hopefully we find ourselves somewhere in the Humility Cycle, continually grateful and forever humble.

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