This year and to be candid, the last three years have been the most challenging of my 55 years of life and 30 years of marriage. Life experiences demanded far more of me than my career did. Sometimes I jokingly comment to my wife, “Who will try and kill me today?” I submit the following list only to give color and not to solicit pity.
- Months of lockdowns, psyops, and isolation
- Officiated the funeral of my uncle
- Officiated the funeral of my aunt
- Conducted an estate sale for my parents
- Sold our house of 20 years
- Moved to an older house needing repairs and renovation
- Hurricane dropped a tree on my mother’s house
- IRS Audit
- Bought and renovated a 1940’s era cottage
- Hurricane (2nd one) flooded the entire neighborhood
- Daughter moved twice to two different states
- Son married
- Other personal events
Many have had it tougher for sure. Friends with cancer, rocky marriages, wayward children, and more. Have I cheered you up yet?
Western culture is unusual in that it tries to find meaning in all these life events. When we can’t find meaning it depresses us. Most will call these events karma, bad luck, punishment, negative vibrations, manifestations of thought, and of course acts of God.
How to Find Thanks
This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to consider another approach. Instead of trying to find meaning, attempt to find thanks (or gratitude).
“In everything give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV)
Easier said than done, right?
The keyword here is “In”. It is not “For”. I believe The Apostle Paul who dealt with more difficult circumstances than any I have listed above had taken great care in choosing the right words when he wrote this letter. He had a lot of time on his hands while sitting in prison.
Why Give Thanks In All Things
Giving thanks in all things gives us a foundational perspective more in alignment with the reality of events and our lives as a whole. When we step back and consider what we are truly in control of, it is a very short list. When in the same position, be truthful with yourself regarding the entirety of your life in the big scheme of infinite time. Both thoughts will begin to give you roots for the next hurricane that is coming.
Living a Charmed Life
In talking to a close friend about a recent life trial, I noted to him that I had considered my life to have been a charmed one up to this point. A recent challenge certainly had rocked our world.
His response was inward-focused. He said he often gets scared about having also lived a relatively trouble-free existence and wondering when “the other shoe would drop”. He wisely knew that it was not if but when change would arrive.
I noticed in thinking back on this conversation with my friend that neither of us blamed something or tried to assign meaning to these trials. We both knew these things would come regardless of how we lived, how much money we had, how dedicated we were to our faith, how charitable we were, or if the weather was sunny and 75 degrees.
In It to Win It
When you give thanks IN all things, you are prepared to move forward not wasting time lamenting or searching for meaning. You accept that even though the condition may be permanent, there was likely no way to avoid or diffuse the oncoming event. As I said to my friend, “This (event) chose us”.
If Paul had used the word “for” (For all things give thanks…) this would imply that any event we perceive as negative is just something we have to live with forevermore and our only option is to be thankful for it albeit begrudgingly.
Using the word “In” (In all things give thanks…) lets us know that we can use the event to grow and become better. We get to decide what we do IN this event to make a win out of it for ourselves and for others. We are in a moment for a period of time and it is only permanent if we accept it as such choosing not to grow and change for the better.
Giving thanks IN all things is a choice.
If you are amid a trial this Thanksgiving and through the holidays know that you are not alone. Ask around and you will find (as I did) that we all have something. The lie of social media perfect lives is not reality.
If you need to speak to someone immediately, dial 988 to connect to resources. If you simply need a way forward and searching for reason has not produced results, try giving thanks IN all things and see where it takes you. Forward I believe…
When I gave thanks in all things I:
- Learned to take better care of my body
- Found I could lead my extended family
- Proved I could still adapt to new places, ideas, and people
- Used my project management skills on big personal projects
- Let my children fly on their own
- Stood up for personal beliefs and ideas
“You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.”
– Henri Frederic Amiel
Wishing you and yours a joyous Thanksgiving.
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