Being Thankful: Implementing the Anti-Complaint Formula

By Meta J. Mereday


As we approach another holiday season of gratitude, giving and being thankful, what lessons have we learned from the current economic conditions? 

Many of us have been living beyond our means for a long time and people of color especially have stressed themselves into early graves in their quest to “keep up with the Joneses” and to “give their children the things they did not have.” 

The elements of being thankful should not be rooted in the number of gifts one receives or outdoing the neighbors, but taking into consideration all that surrounds us each and every day with the understanding that it can be taken away so quickly.  

In Japanese culture, the psychology of Naikan provides guidelines that identify a more authentic life that incorporates gratitude and being thankful for the things that we often take for granted in making our own lives possible. 

Through self reflective practices, there is a new awareness that is built upon the inner gifts that do not require external material elements that are short term in satisfaction. 

We often wonder why many young people today are so easily distracted or never satisfied. Clearly, effective marketing strategies that are specifically designed to generate short term boosts based on “fad mentality” are partially to blame.

Each year, the “new and improved” or “latest version” adds to the “must have at any cost” mania that pervades our society, but the lack of introspection and a not-being thankful nature only increases the dissatisfaction and ingratitude.  So, we have evolved into a society of complainers and only in times of crisis do we return to the basics in a wistful “I wish I could have appreciated what I had.”  It is time to make that change.

Why wait until you “hit the emotional wall or a physical crisis” before being thankful? Why wait for the ad agency driven commercialism to determine how you can be thankful and what gifts to share?  

Do you realize how much time you waste complaining about what you don’t have versus rejoicing about the things you do have?  Do you notice how tired you become when you are around someone who complains all the time?

Research has shown how negativity can be so draining and how positive energy helps to revive your spirit. Just imagine having the spirit of the holidays and the essence of gratitude and being thankful all year round. It all begins with you.  Take your own accounting — not of your bank account, but your life account.

The art of life accounting and tracking the blessings in your life is the start of your “being thankful with no time to complain” model. 

Next, the art of giving of yourself to others through service and support provides more positive and productive reinforcement. Just volunteering for a photo opportunity or because it is the holiday season is not enough.

We are all given talents and gifts that we too often take for granted and are only loaned to us to benefit others.  It is time to “give back” and to share those blessings and to live the example that you expect others to follow.  And teach that to your children. 

I once marveled at a prayer given by a Native American holy man who took the time to give thanks not just for the food we were about the eat, but the air we breathed and the elements that helped the crops and animals, the cleansing waters that flowed and the earth from which the food was harvested. That caused me to reflect on all the things that we fail to be thankful for within us and around us in our quest for material goods.

Years ago, a dear friend was paralyzed in a car accident and his outlook on life left an impression on me. I was thankful for the things that he was still able to do and he was not one to complain, because you could see how big his heart was and his giving spirit. 

His gifts to the world were still limitless and I treasured his friendship and that spirit.  It just reminds one of the saying about not complaining when you have no shoes when you see someone who has no feet.  Some people have shoes that they do not even use that someone else could be wearing.

This season should not be any different from any other day because everyday is a holiday and a time for giving and being thankful.  The time we take to complain should be replaced with giving thanks for all the blessings that we take lightly and all the people who have been a positive part of that experience and giving back – and that does not always have to be monetarily.  

Hard times are not new, but how we deal with them by digging further into debt as a means to escape and compensate is not the answer.  

When the fame and fortune are gone, the faith and fortitude to maintain that spirit of gratitude is what will make the difference. We need to teach our children by first living the example of being a gracious giver based upon those basic, internal gifts that make the playing field level.

Visit a nursing home, bake cookies for new neighbors, plant flowers in the neighborhood, smile at a sales clerk, make someone laugh, or write a letter to thank a veteran – just make a difference.  It will come back to you.

Gratitude is an interpersonal, lifelong attitude that encourages sharing one’s blessings and not a promotional, seasonal theme focused on being expensive gifts.  Think about it!

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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