Living with a spirit of gratitude is the first step to experiencing Joy. Joy is not dependent upon circumstances. While other people may be able to steal our happiness, they cannot touch our joy. Joy comes from within. It is a soul, or spirit thing.
Joy Can Be Dangerous
Joy can be dangerous. On the one hand, it is contagious. Spending time with someone who has learned the secret to moving with a spirit of joy will disrupt your world. The longer you spend in their company the more you want to experience life as they do. You will either learn from them, or slowly grow to resent the way in which they seem to be joyful no matter what life brings their way.
The Resentments We Cling To
The biggest block to moving with a spirit of joy is the resentments we cling to. We all have them. Those things, some large, many small, which we cling to that prove that life is not fair. Maybe we were overlooked for a promotion. Could be we did not get invited to a friend’s party. Our favorite television show was cancelled. Someone chose to go shopping instead of spending the day with us. We prepared a wonderful dinner, and nobody even said thank you. The person in the checkout line had twenty items in the express lane. Our plans have been turned upside down because of some virus. That friend of ours who always seems to move with a spirit of joy, how can they do that!
Resentments are formed when we feel as if we deserve something. A sense of entitlement is fertile ground for breeding a healthy crop of resentment. When I approach life as if I am owed or have earned something it is extremely easy for me to feel cheated or robbed of what should rightfully be mine.
“The failure to be properly grateful, to take as owed what is offered as a gift, lies at the root of many of our deepest resentments toward others – and their resentments toward us. Invariably when we are angry at someone, especially at those closest to us, it is precisely because we are not being appreciated (that is, thanked) properly. Conversely, I suspect, more than a few people harbor resentments toward us because we, consciously or unconsciously, think that it is their job to take care of us.”
Ronald Rolheiser – “Against An Infinite Horizon” – pg. 73
Parable Of The Loving Father
Jesus parable of the Prodigal Son, or more aptly named, parable of the Loving Father speaks of resentments run amok. In Luke 15 Jesus tells of a Son who has allowed resentments to build between himself and his father. The situation has grown so bad the son asks for his part of the inheritance and leaves the home. While the father is left at home wondering what has become of his son.
After a season the son has spent everything and realizes that life is much better at home with his father. He returns, asking only to be allowed to serve as a servant in this father’s house. The father is not hearing it. He is filled with joy and welcomes his son home with open arms.
The story does not end there. A second brother, the faithful, dutiful, responsible brother is witness to the welcome his wayward brother receives. As plans are being made to throw a huge welcome home party this older brother is filled with resentment. He resents his younger brother for abandoning their father. Resentment has festered as he, the responsible one, has had to do twice the work to maintain the family estate. He is even resentful that his father has extended grace and forgiveness to the prodigal.
All of this resentment is bad for his soul. It robs him of sharing in the joy of the father. He misses out on one of the best parties that household has ever seen. His relationship with father and brother is damaged. Resentments have worked their pain and damage. He has been robbed of joy.
As the rest of the household is joining together in celebration, we can only imagine the thoughts running through this brother’s head as he sulks off by himself. For those of us who struggle to view all of life as gift, those who are familiar with how resentment works, we can easily imagine the thoughts running through his mind.
Jesus tells this parable to teach about the grace, mercy, and love of God. A love which transcends and overcomes resentments.
The opposite of moving with a spirit of entitlement is recognizing that all of life is gift. Each sunrise is a gift. Every moment of each day is a gift. Each encounter and conversation are a gift, even the difficult ones. All of life is a gift.
Learning to move as if all of life is gift makes it harder for the resentments to grow. Even those prickly people who I may struggle to interact with, they are a gift. I am not owed their respect. There is nothing that guarantees I should not have struggles while I journey this earth.
If I can see every individual, each encounter as a gift…what is there to resent? I have been blessed with a gift. Do I have the courage, strength, vision to see God in each person, in all of life?
When Resentments Build
When I feel my resentments build. As life seems to spin out of control and I begin to feel as if I am moving with the attitude of entitlement, I have learned it is time to slow down. Time to stop what I am doing and take a few deep breaths. I have started asking where I can see the “gift” in this situation. Where is God working, moving right now. What anxiety, stress, resentment, sense of entitlement am I bringing to this experience. What is going on in the lives of others involved that is causing them to move with spirit of entitlement, and robbing them of joy.
Slowly I am learning to move through life with a deeper sense and spirit of joy.
- In the coming days may you find the courage to lay aside the resentments that weigh you down.
- May God grant you the vision to see all of life as gift.
- May you find Joy in each and every day.