The Gratitude Project

The Gratitude Project

The Gratitude Project is an attempt to shake loose the bonds of a consumer-driven, entitled life, and become a more thankful and centered person.  During the next 365 days I will be intentionally transforming myself (with lots of help) by finding new ways each day to be less self-centered and thankful.  Each month I am going to take on a bigger project to challenge myself.  I’ll be blogging about it the whole way.

Day 10

One thing about thankfulness: One might think that it would make you more aware of yourself than ever, and in a way it does.  But even more than that, it makes you more aware of others.  One quickly tires of thinking about the stuff there is to be thankful for, and then it isn’t a short hop until you’re thinking about the people in your life who matter a lot more than the “stuff.”  Once you are focused on being thankful for people, you start finding yourself trying on a whole lot of proverbial moccasins.  Sometimes, that gets sticky.  Some peoples moccasins are filled with stuff that hurts your feet.

I wrote a thank you card today to my manager at the store.  I feel really badly for her with the upcoming changes that are happening at our little business (I can’t say much more now).  It is pretty sad that for many of my co-workers there, that store is a gigantic part of their life, and now all of that is about to change.  In some ways I empathize with them.  But it is also sometimes a kick in the butt that we need in order to make changes that might be good for us in the long run.

I have found that one side effect of trying to be more thankful toward people is that I have more natural empathy toward them.  I am not really naturally that empathetic a person.  Although, I really debate back and forth on that.  On the one hand, I tend to be more of a “lift yourself up by your bootstraps” thinker.  I try not to be too much like that, but it is always in the background.  But on the other hand, if someone tells me that I have hurt them, or that they are upset about something (even if it has nothing to do with me) I will think about it continually in the back of my mind.

I know several of my teens are having sexual identity issues.  I hate that.  I hate that they are in a world that has made sexuality such an in-your-face issue, and yet more confusing than ever.  I also hate the fact that God has somehow been invited out of the dialogue.  It must seem like I am digressing, but after a conversation tonight with one of them, that is all I can think about.  I don’t know if “The Gratitude Project” has made me more empathetic this way, or just made me more aware of being this way.  I am confusing even myself now.

In other news, I’m really mulling over what to do about my monthly project for September.  I have an idea, but I don’t know if it will work, and I don’t want to jinx myself.

The Gratitude Project

The Gratitude Project

The Gratitude Project is an attempt to shake loose the bonds of a consumer-driven, entitled life, and become a more thankful and centered person.  During the next 365 days I will be intentionally transforming myself (with lots of help) by finding new ways each day to be less self-centered and thankful.  Each month I am going to take on a bigger project to challenge myself.  I’ll be blogging about it the whole way.

Day 6

I’ve been working hard at this most of the week, although I must admit I didn’t stay with the program really well most of Friday.  There have been a couple accomplishments that I’ve been pretty proud of.

First, I realized that I do a really bad job of writing letters and encouraging people.  I don’t want to be that way.  I’ve decided that I am going to write more thank-you cards and letters of encouragement.  I did one this week, and it made me feel really good, but that wasn’t the point.  I have also made a point to be extra thankful and appreciative to Peichi.  I think I do a really poor job of that.  It seems to me that sometimes the hardest people to be nice to are the people to whom I should be the nicest.

Second, I’ve tried to take What About Bob style baby steps.  Thanking every customer at work, and being extra nice to people has been a good start.  It is even kind of fun sometimes.  I play a little game lately when someone is being kind of rude.  I just try to be even more nice than usual.  I don’t know that it accomplishes much, but I get to have fun and be nice at the same time.

But I’ve also realized some things that are going to be challenges.  The biggest one is the matter of introspection.  In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the main character (a demon) urges his nephew to influence his charge in dealing with the issue of humility.  He instructs that if the man becomes very humble, make his humility a source of pride to him.  If he then tries to work on his pride in his own humility, get him so wrapped up in dealing with this that all he can think about is himself.

I find this could easily be a temptation in this whole project.  As I am trying to be less self-obsessed, am I becoming more so by dwelling on it?  This is even further complicated because I am writing the whole thing down in a blog for the world to see (or just the handful of people who ever read this).  I do worry about this, but at this point I don’t think it is too much of an issue.

I am sure that from the outside it seems like I am either bragging about my successes to the world, or airing my weaknesses as a catharsis.  Neither is actually my heart.  This is more a diary for myself.  But if someone else somehow benefits from what I’m dealing with, then great!  The same thing goes with my successes.

I think this will be more difficult when I do some bigger projects.  If I tell about it here, then someone could question my altruism.  Heck, I will question my altruism.  I’ll just have to console myself by knowing that no one actually reads this 😛

The Gratitude Project

The Gratitude ProjectThe Gratitude Project is an attempt to shake loose the bonds of a consumer-driven, entitled life, and become a more thankful and centered person.  During the next 365 days I will be intentionally transforming myself (with lots of help) by finding new ways each day to be less self-centered and thankful.  Each month I am going to take on a bigger project to challenge myself.  I’ll be blogging about it the whole way.

Day 2

Last night I heard my youth group singing the Matt Redman song, “Blessed Be Your Name.”  That song has always been powerful to me.  I have really been trying to take the words to heart and make them my prayer to God:

Blessed Be Your Name in the land that is plentiful 
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
Blessed Be Your name when I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back in praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name when the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be' blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering 
Though there's pain in the offering blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord still I will say

You give and take away, you give and take away
My heart will choose to say Lord, blessed be Your name

I love that this song tells a faith story of looking to God in thankfulness and praise no matter what the circumstance.  It is easy for me to be thankful to God when I have just won the lottery, but it seems unnatural and difficult when I am sick.  But God is still God in every circumstance.  It is my position that has changed, not God’s.  I need to learn to be thankful to Him because of who He is, not for how I feel.

I thought that as I Christian, I should start out this whole endeavor by looking into some of what the Bible says about thankfulness.  Here is a little of what I found:

“I will give thanks to the Lord for His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high.” -Psalm 7:17
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever.” -Psalm 118:1 & Psalm 136:1
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” -Phil 4:6

I am trying to think on these today.

The Gratitude Project

The Gratitude Project

I have been thinking lately about the state of the world around me, a common issue that I ponder.  Specifically, I have noticed the growing sense of entitlement all around me.  A few months ago I saw a brief video from Conan O’Brien, where a comedian was saying that the problem with the world these days is that “everything’s amazing, and nobody’s happy.”  The more I think about it, the more I agree.

It seems that we have had so much, for so long that we have forgotten that we have all that we do because we are blessed and have started to believe that we have it all, because we deserve it.  I get bothered when the Internet in the café I am in right now takes more than 30 seconds to get to a page.  I am bothered when the traffic takes me 10 minutes longer than I think that it should.  But why am I really bothered by these things?  If I really get down to the heart of the issue, I am bothered because I think that I am supposed to have things go quickly and smoothly.  I deserve it.  When I really think about it, it is the most selfish, unhealthy attitude I could possibly have.

I’m also really bothered by a lack of humility that I see all around me.  People who quickly come up with a prescriptive answer for any problem I face, and even innocuous comments like “You need to read this book,” quickly touch a sore place in my psyche.  If I really examine it though, I am bothered because I do that too.  I am prescriptive and puffed up, maybe not more than anyone else, but more than I should be.

Lately, I’ve felt a sense that I need to do something big, some project that will have a lasting effect on me and the world around me.  Not just growing the American Dream, or career-wise, but something bigger, something A.J. Jacobs big…something Morgan Spurlock big.  It has to be something that will jolt me out of my everyday routine, but something that means something.  I think I’ve found it.

I’ve come up with an idea I’m calling “The Gratitude Project.”  It’s a challenge, just for myself.  I’m going to spend a year, the next 365 days trying to shake myself from an entitled, self-absorbed, consumerist mentality.  I’m going to take daily steps to challenge myself, and monthly projects that are a little bit bigger  and somehow costly, and I’m going to blog about it every step of the way.

I don’t know how it will all work itself out.  In reality, this project may look a lot different in month 3 than it does tomorrow, but I’m going to see where God leads it all.