Jesse Brown’s Loves Recognizing Thanks.
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Rights Versus Privileges
When meeting very successful people who have come to America from other countries, I frequently ask what their key to success is. Their responses all have one thing in common: what most Americans see as a right, they see as a privilege. In other words, what most of us see as something we deserve (and should pout about if we do not get) they see as a gift. As a result, in their hearts, most people today feel they are being cheated, a feeling that cannot bring much joy.
For example, at first after “landing” a certain job, we are happy, even ecstatic, perhaps not believing we are hired over someone else; but given time, one can hardly tell if we are at the job to serve the company or if the company is to serve us. Then, we find others there who feel the same way we do, so we become miserable together, and we collectively meditate (roll these thoughts over and over in our minds), actually commiserate about how mistreated we are. The workplace is no longer a privilege but now our right. This privilege-versus-right factor correlates somewhat in many other situations.
One day two railroaders who worked at a low wage were together when the president of the railroad greeted one of them. The one railroader asked the second, “How do you know the president?” The fellow worker said, “We started here together.” Amazed, the other said, “How is he the president and you are still a laborer?” The friend answered, “I came to work for a wage; he came to work for the railroad.” In a similar fashion, I have quit using some people professionally because they saw having my business as their right; looking back, I see, overall, their business struggled because of this perception about rights and privileges. However, people who prosper tend to think that most of life is a privilege, not a right.
We can apply this same privilege-versus-right factor to marriages. Specifically, some groups of people gather just to complain about their spouses, thinking in some way these sessions are cathartic, only to go home to their spouses, seeing their faults all the more and their gifts less clearly. Again, the real losers in these practices are the ones practicing them. If you complain, you will remain; those complaining words flowing out of your mouth are the weight holding you down. Are your complaining friends really a gift to you?
Going hand in hand with the rights-versus privilege factor is a concept called inattentional blindness, which means whatever you do not give attention to you, you are blind to. To illustrate, think about the car you drive; the day after you bought it, did you not see that car everywhere? In your brain, you have a reticular activation system. You will see thousands of things today but will remember seeing only a few. The reticular activation system determines what you remember seeing. When you bought the car, that car is what you remember seeing, because you gave attention to it. Now you see it everywhere. The drive for the reticular activation system comes from the things that you feed your mind and that you speak.
David Stein Rath, a monk who lives overlooking Big Sur, California, starts each day seeking a new thing to be thankful for. When he ends each day, he lies in bed, stating aloud, “Thank you for this new thing I found to be thankful for.” Therefore, his spirit is lifted. He is thankful intentionally, and as a result, he has in a positive way altered his reticular activation system. He has given attention to thankfulness, and so his eyes see where he should be thankful, as opposed to seeing where he should be resentful and offended.
Now we come upon the holiday of Thanksgiving. But do not misunderstand, thinking the day is especially for your spouse or boss so you can grudgingly give thanks for them or all that is around you. It was made for you. Is there anybody this moment giving thanks for you? Instead of counting your own blessings, can you count the blessings you’ve given? Did anybody this past year call you after being diagnosed with cancer, with a marriage falling apart, or as a loved one was passing? Make a commitment to be a blessing, for sure for next year, so that, then, when someone lowers their head to give thanks for all they have received, you will be one of those things on their list.
If you want to have a happy heart, be thankful; be it on purpose. In other words, you catch a cold, but you do not catch health; being healthy is something you intend. Like a cold, you catch resentment, but real gratitude is a daily intentional act. Real thankfulness is intending to find a new blessing, looking for that blessing every day. Being a blessing takes mindfulness. It takes filling your mind up with thoughts of being a blessing, asking, “Dear Lord, when someone needs to receive a blessing, please consider sending me.” Happy Thanksgiving.
Find similar messages in our new CD series “Your Sacred Season.”