Covenant Spotlight
Gratitude is an attitude Gratitude is an attitude
Gratitude is an attitude

By Michelle Hernandez 

   When I was teaching New Testament to high school students, I liked to refer to the Beatitudes as the “Be Happy Attitudes.” In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives us The Sermon on the Mount, in which He describes blessings we will receive when we have certain dispositions. Many of us might not consider these fortunate circumstances, or things that would bring about blessings: being poor in spirit, mourning, being meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecuted or insulted.  

Clouding the view 

   Cognitive distortions, faulty ways of thinking, get in the way of our happiness. They make it difficult for us to find what there is to be thankful for or happy about. Take black and white or “all-or-nothing” thinking. Either you are my best friend, or you are my enemy. Either you are a good person, or you are a bad person. Either I am perfectly successful, or I am a failure. Life exists on a continuum; it is very grey, and if we cannot walk that middle path between black and white, we will not achieve happiness. We will not learn to look for the good and be thankful. 

   Mental filters can make it difficult for us to see clearly, especially to see the good, in the circumstances of life. Have you ever met someone who notices the negative and won’t (or can’t) acknowledge the positive in any circumstance? Or perhaps you have been told you are “negative.” Negative filters are sure to put a damper on things. It will probably turn people away from us. Most people do not want to hang around a cloud of gloom and doom. It leads to anxiety and depression and dampens our motivation and zest for life. It is more challenging to have fun when negativity looms. 

Focus & relate by choice 

   Let’s take our current world circumstance of a pandemic. We have choices in how to think about this situation that is mostly out of our control. We can choose to focus on all the problems this has created, all the changes we are having difficulty adjusting to, all the losses we have experienced, or we can look for the silver linings, the blessings, the good that has come out of this. It has forced us to slow down, to be home more, to be outdoors more, and the list goes on. This is not to ignore the fact that some of us have lost loved ones and suffered economic and other hardships, myself included. It is just a choice to deal with the difficulties and continue focusing on whatever good is there. What blessings have you received as a result of the pandemic? 

   We can also choose to argue with people who see things differently that we do and judge them in some way, or we can try to listen and understand where others are coming from. This could lead to a solution, or at least make peace more likely in our families, workplaces, communities, country.  

Challenge your thinking 

   How do we develop an attitude of gratitude? It is a habit we must work on daily. It has been said it takes 21 days to form a habit. Start a gratitude journal and daily list the things you are thankful for. It does not have to be formal; it can just be a list on a piece of paper or note pad or on your phone. Keep it handy to challenge yourself to stop and write down good things you notice during the day. If you start now, you can choose to have a more enjoyable holiday season. How many blessings can you count? 

Michelle Hernandez is a parishioner at Our Lady of  Wisdom Church, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in Lafayette, LA.