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Gratitude: A Crucial Step Towards Positivity

Makeena Rivers | Feb 3, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Makeena Rivers | Feb 3, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Many people endorse adopting a more positive attitude in life and agree that the brighter the outlook you have on the world around you, the more happiness and ease you’ll have to move through it. 

While it sounds like a nice idea, having a more positive attitude is not always an easy feat, especially when there is so much injustice and suffering in the world. Like any form of internal change, trying to shift your approach to the challenges you face — both personally and in your community — requires new tools. Finding fresh ways to approach change requires effort and strategy. 

RELATED: How Can I Make a Difference When it Feels Like Nothing Changes?

The Baha’i writings suggest looking to the good in the world that God has created as one way of warding off the bitterness that often makes positivity feel impossible. In a talk in Paris in November 1911, Abdu’l-Baha, the son and designated successor of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, explained that “When our thoughts are filled with the bitterness of this world, let us turn our eyes to the sweetness of God’s compassion and He will send us heavenly calm!”  

What does it look like to “turn our eyes to the sweetness of God’s compassion”? While I only have my own experiences to reflect on, I think about looking to the good things in our world as signs of God’s kindness. When there is so much hardship, challenge, and dysfunction, the beauty and love that flourishes can be viewed as miraculous. For me, positivity very clearly incorporates acknowledging the reality of things even when they are heavy. In my understanding, positivity is more about the attitude with which we look at the serious injustices and suffering we see in the world around us, rather than our choice to see them or not. When we are practicing a positive attitude we are simply believing there is room for improvement. 

Finding a way to be more positive affects the way we move through the world. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

All that has been created is for man who is at the apex of creation and who must be thankful for the divine bestowals, so that through his gratitude he may learn to understand life as a divine benefit.”  

Embracing gratitude for God means honoring those around us by doing good and focusing our efforts on expressing how thankful we are for what we have. 

RELATED: Generous in Prosperity & Thankful in Adversity

The Baha’i writings emphasize how gratitude that moves beyond mere verbal expression has the power to transform someone’s life and reorient their energy towards building up the good of humankind. In a talk in New York City in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha said:

Thankfulness is of various kinds. There is a verbal thanksgiving which is confined to a mere utterance of gratitude. This is of no importance because perchance the tongue may give thanks while the heart is unaware of it. Many who offer thanks to God are of this type; their spirits and hearts unconscious of thanksgiving. This is mere usage, just as when we meet, receive a gift and say thank you, speaking the words without significance. … When man in response to the favors of God manifests susceptibilities of conscience, the heart is happy, the spirit is exhilarated. These spiritual susceptibilities are ideal thanksgiving. There is a cordial thanksgiving, too, which expresses itself in the deeds and actions of man when his heart is filled with gratitude. For example, God has conferred upon man the gift of guidance, and in thankfulness for this great gift certain deeds must emanate from him. To express his gratitude for the favors of God man must show forth praiseworthy actions. In response to these bestowals he must render good deeds, be self-sacrificing, loving the servants of God, forfeiting even life for them, showing kindness to all the creatures. Whatsoever he wishes to do must be in harmony with the good pleasure of God. He must observe and see what is the will of God and act accordingly. There can be no doubt that such commendable deeds are thankfulness for the favors of God.”

This passage reminds me that even when we aren’t feeling overly positive, treating others with kindness, practicing generosity, and dedicating our efforts to uplifting the state of the world around us is a way we can show through our actions that we are thankful to God. 

In addition to verbally expressing or stating appreciation, focusing on the good and practicing humility in our daily lives allows us an opening to actually act with gratitude. Even when we are not always feeling positive, when we shift our actions to promote peace, justice, and love, we show some level of hope and belief in the possibility of good for our world.

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  • Mark David Vinzens
    Feb 19, 2021
    It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. Peace be with you
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