David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who has spent decades studying and practicing gratitude, says that “happiness doesn’t make you grateful; gratefulness makes you happy.” Happiness is a rather fleeting emotion dependent upon the circumstances of the moment; on the other hand, gratefulness is, according to Steindl-Rast, an opportunity that is presented to us in each moment regardless of whether the moment is a happy or challenging one.
Moments present us with an opportunity to learn, mourn, and experience joy or pain, though some of these are not things for which we should be particularly grateful. In our not-so-happy moments, we are perhaps given the opportunity to rise to the challenge, practice resilience, comfort another, or stand up for our convictions.
Steindl-Rast urges us to “stop, look, and go” in order to cultivate gratefulness. The simple acts of slowing down (stopping), reflecting and being aware of ourselves in the moment (looking), and then living out of that awareness (going) are the keys to a grateful life, a joyful life.
With the tumult of the world swirling around us, I plan to take some time to “stop” and “look” before I “go.” If I do it once, I might be able to do it a few times a week, then daily, and maybe even several times a day, cultivating just a little more joy within myself and others.
Watch David Steindl-Rast’s 2013 TED Talk entitled “Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful”
Sparking Ministry Conversations
Where in your life are you most able to “stop, look, and go”? What does it look like to cultivate gratitude in your congregation?
The Rev. Dr. Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi is director of the United Church of Christ's Center for Analytics, Research and Data (CARD). Kristina and other ministers-researchers blog about questions of importance for the UCC and beyond at http://carducc.wordpress.com.