Focus on Gratitude

May 5, 2022

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

Dr. Brene Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection shares the idea that we can put joy into our lives when we choose to focus on what we’re grateful for, rather than focusing on what we don’t have, or what we’re afraid of losing. That’s the polar opposite of living with expectations we obsessively need fulfilled. We daily discover the kind of experience we see on a trip to “The Happiest Place on Earth.” The ads for the Disney Experience are full of perfect pictures and laughing families. In real life it’s almost always hot, sticky, with long lines, exhausted and crying kids, $12 hotdogs, and $4.99 Cokes. No parent has been at Disney for one full day without frustration—their expectations for the day have gone askew in at least one way, and they can’t imagine how giving so much to their children wouldn’t transform them into blissful and beautiful models of cooperation. But the kids have all been disappointed and wailing multiple times. How does Disney succeed despite this regular occurrence? They are experts at negotiating enough fabulous moments at just the right times so your focus stays fixed on them, and the frustrations diminish in memory. It’s the focus that counts. Joy and gratitude overcome the disappointed expectations if we fix our focus.

You can overcome your expectations and live in contentment if you give up entitlement. When we feel entitled to something, we don’t appreciate it when we get it. Most of the things that disrupt our satisfaction and cause relational problems are truly minor. They are third world problems. Yet because we feel entitled to 24/7 expectation fulfillment, we get disturbed and pass it on. Here’s something no one wants to hear, yet we know it is true. Life is not fair, and no one ever gets everything they want or feel they deserve.

One of the finest things you can do for yourself is cultivate gratitude. Be thankful you don’t always get what you deserve. That’s a good thing. You wouldn’t be happy if you did. Ask God to help you notice the small things to appreciate in your relationships. Lack of gratitude is toxic, and it spreads like a virus, infecting everyone and everything. Even in the middle of less-than-perfect circumstances, God is good and working, and people are far better and more worthwhile than we realize.

It is often affirmed, “Gratitude is the healthiest human emotion.” A daily dose of gratitude can go a long way in minimizing expectational fall-out and healing relationships.

  • With what person are you currently disappointed? Where are your expectations unmet? Take time to make a new short list: List three things about that person for which you are grateful. Thank God and thank them.