Although I have written about my relationships with others before – family and co-workers, for instance – I wanted to share how I am grateful for my connection with three different groups. They have helped me be a better man, father, and member of my community. I feel that we have to revisit our connections with others and what they mean to us because we are losing our ability to connect. This has been accelerated because of the pandemic, but it was happening already. We have substituted real communication for superficial social media posts, both in their creation and in the hours of reading them. We have to get back to the basics.
It’s harder to get more basic than the self. I am grateful for my sense of self, my thoughts, and my belief systems. While it is clear that we are born with a personality (it’s hard not to when you see a newborn display it’s uniqueness and individuality), but we are influenced by parents, friends, authority figures, and everyone else we encounter. Sometimes it can be hard to separate our own ideas and thoughts from those whom we respect and admire. In the end, I am not sure that it is important to make the distinction. The important thing is to figure out if it is a good thought or desire. If it is virtuous, does it matter if it originated from your own mind or that someone mentioned it and it stayed with us?
I am grateful that we are given the tools to discover whether an idea will lead to our improvement or our detriment. Our thoughts are central to our natures and our belief structures and interactions with others originate with our thoughts, especially those that we keep on an internal loop. After I think an idea, I can ask myself “Does this make me want to interact with others – to serve, to help, and to make their lives better?” Some are neutral, so if it doesn’t uplift, I can ask an opposite, “Does this thought make me more self-serving, more angry, and more jealous?” If it does, then I know that it will eventually lead to my destruction. A dramatic word, I know, but accurate.
Along with being grateful for the connection that I have with myself, I am grateful for my personal connections that I have with my family and my community. I know that for some, their family connections are not as productive as they could be. I tend to think that this is because that on one side (or both), that people are not being true to themselves and seeking their best selves. The struggle against selfishness and immediate self-gratification is hard and it is difficult to have strong connections when one or both sides of a relationship are self-centered. However, it is possible to come together even when one side is intent on building walls instead of building connections. It just takes more effort.
I have to say that although I don’t enjoy it, I am grateful for the struggle to connect with both family and those within the community. I have not always had a great relationship with those within my family and those around me. Sometimes, it took a great deal of forgiveness and willingness in my heart to move forward. I can’t say that it was all their fault either. I am a hard person to live with, in spite of my good intentions and I think everyone else is the same. Our actions don’t match up with our intentions.
If we conduct ourselves with the thought that if we get hurt by something that someone said or did, it’s because they didn’t know that that would be the outcome. That may be the key to getting along with others, even though they may hurt us. It’s a better way to live than thinking that others are deliberately saying or doing things because they want to cause us pain. That is the path to misery.
The last area of gratitude for me is one that is a tricky subject for most people, although it shouldn’t be. That is the connection that I have – that we all have – towards God. I believe that He is real and my life experiences back this up. I know that not everyone shares this belief or in the same God, or in God at all, and that is their right. I choose to believe and I am grateful for the connection that I have with Him.
I am able to have a connection to Him because I believe that He is my spiritual father in a real sense that He created my spirit and seeks for the best in me. I believe that he embodies the best in all virtuous traits and He wants me to have those same traits as well. To make that possible, he has given scripture that point the way to live that will provide the path to obtain those traits. He also provides the way to improve my connection with myself and with those around me. I am also grateful that I am free to choose whether I accept those gifts or reject them.
1. Improving your connection to yourself: Identify each morning a goal you want to achieve. When you complete a step towards that goal, no matter how small the step, congratulate yourself on your hard work and visualize success on achieving the next step.
2. Improving your connection to family and community: Find someone that you have drifted away from and reconnect. Tell them that you appreciate them and give a specific, real example.
3. Connection to God: Pray and thank Him for everything that you have – the good and the bad. Give thanks before making requests.