Practicing Gratitude: The Antidote to Entitlement
We live in an affluent society and many parents today worry about their kids having an attitude of entitlement instead of being grateful for all that they have been given. Short of refusing to give our children one more good thing or shipping them off to live in the slums of a third world country, what can we as parents do to fight this tendency of entitlement? I have had numerous on-going conversations around this theme with my sisters and other mothers, and we have come to the conclusion that the antidote to the assumption of entitlement has to be the active practice of gratitude.
If we shortchange the practice of gratitude in our lives, so much is at stake! Brene Brown says that in her research she has learned to pair gratitude with joy, because she has never found one without finding the other in a person. She also says, “People were quick to point out the differences between happiness and joy as the difference between a human emotion that’s connected to circumstances and a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.”
So how do we go about the practice of gratitude? What does that look like? I say make it as concrete as any other practice. Some people keep gratitude journals, do daily gratitude meditations or prayers, go around the table before eating each meal to comment on what they are grateful for that day. In our family we have done all of these things off and on. I also know my children have benefitted greatly from their father’s habit of voicing his gratitude. In the winter months he rarely comes home without acknowledging how cold it is outside and how lucky we are to have a warm house. He is appreciative of good food and quick to point out how fortunate we are to live in a day and age where we have access to such variety and abundance. He calls the kids outside to see a beautiful sunset or a rainbow or a storm- (we have watched many fascinating storms from our front porch wrapped in coats and blankets– they are our favorite.) Likewise there are few winter evenings when we don’t at least walk around the block to realize how good we have it indoors. (That is a spiritual practice that also improves everybody’s mood, I have noticed. ) Because of my husbands’ strong habit of verbalizing his gratitude I have often heard my kids do the same and I have become better at it myself.
I am looking forward to facilitating a parenting class in October called, ‘Parents as Spiritual Guides.’ You are all invited. We will meet from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m., all the Sundays of October (and maybe one in November.) I am keenly interested in offering this program because I have struggled myself with what it means to have a spiritual life. As a parent I know I can’t give what I don’t have, so trying to help my children have a spiritual life is tied up in that sense of struggle. I don’t have all the answers but I do know that a group of people coming together can achieve more than any one of us trying to figure things out on our own. The last class I taught was ‘Build Your Own Theology’ and I guarantee that I came out of that series with a different and stronger theology from being part of a group, than I would have had I just studied the book and done the activities by myself alone in my room.
I am filled with gratitude for being part of this vibrant Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder. Although Howell will always have a special place in my heart, I am also grateful for getting to work alongside Rev. Kelly now and feel of her energy and love and enthusiasm for our people and our faith. I am grateful for all the teachers and all the kids in our R.E. program and all the inspiration they give to me. Indeed we all have so much to be grateful for that the practice of gratitude should come rather easily!
Janen Wright—Lifespan Faith Development Director