Day 1881 – Day 1914
Recently, a friend said that my life lately has resembled a page from the Book of Job. Now, if you’re not big on knowing the books of the Bible, you might just want to know that the book of Job is where a Christian is directed to answer the Question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I’ll leave it to you to look at the Book of Job if that is something that interests you or read some summaries that can be found all over the internet. One example is here.
I don’t often fall into either thinking that the Universe is against me or that I’m to blame for everything bad that happens to me. I get disappointed, and, I get discouraged. But, this is where gratitude practice really helps me to keep going, even when life isn’t going as smoothly as I’d like. Instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I try to focus on what I do have.
I struggle with finding the ways to be grateful when a person has done me wrong. I get angry at the injustice of it. I find this particularly frustrating when it seems that all good things seem to follow the person who did me wrong.
I am thinking of someone in particular who did me wrong. He is handsome and charming and a very good liar and, as I later found out, was involved in criminal activity. He has loads of money, and he never has to work. He seems to be doing marvelously. Everyone believes that he’s a great guy.
For a long time after my experience of him, I found myself wondering: “Why do Good things happen to Bad people?” It’s a simple turn of phrase and I won’t call him ‘bad’ because I think most people are not bad people but many people do bad things. His antisocial, cruel behaviour towards me was bad.
When I thought about the guy who did me wrong, I got angry that he and his siblings had so many breaks in life because they have wealth and connections that seem to have been accumulated in a not completely ethical manner. As a friend pointed out, the fact that the guy has never struggled also accounts for his cowardice, his haughty sense of entitlement, and his other character flaws. And, she’s right. The guy seems to have no gratitude. Even in the face of what others would call a bounty, that guy could always find something to complain about. I remember that I once took him canoeing at my parents’ cottage and I asked if he had enjoyed himself. He said it was ‘alright’ and then complained that the boat was not a very nice one because it was made of fibreglass and not of wood. He complained about my cooking, when I was feeding him, in my home. He complained about the traffic when I drove him, two hours out of my way, to take him home. He complained about being hard-done-by in several different settings and I found him tiresome for never being happy or grateful for anything anyone did for him. He once complained to me about growing up wealthy and that he sometimes wished that he was poor.
Well, be careful what you wish for, I guess.
Maybe abundance really does come at a cost that we cannot see. If one has never had to rely on other people to survive – as those of us who have to go to a day job to pay our bills do – this hinders one’s development of empathy, which in turn hampers one’s ability to build relationships. If you’ve never struggled, it is hard to develop grit, and if you’ve always had everything you wanted, it can create a sense of entitlement and paranoia that can destroy meaningful relationships. Empathy and gratitude are qualities that lead to developing a wish to be of service. Service, in turn, is the key to living a purposeful and meaningful life. Money and status – beyond a basic level – contribute little to increasing our happiness. Most things that contribute to individual happiness – strong relationships, trust, gratitude, purpose, and meaning – may be hard to achieve if good fortune has always been heaped upon you, from an early age.
Maybe having everything you ever wanted is as much a test of character as having had to struggle. And, maybe who is tested in any instance is not so obvious.
I am grateful for every challenge that I’ve faced, albeit more grateful once I’ve come out the other side. My struggles have made me who I am, and I like the person that I am. I’m even grateful for the months of anger and resentment that I once felt towards the guy who wronged me and whose life seemed to be platinum-plated. Those months of soul struggling taught me a valuable lesson. My concern for a “just” outcome took my eyes off of my own journey and all of the things for which I had to be grateful. It pitted some of my precious life energy in opposition to another person, rather than pursuing those life affirming moments of being in the flow of Oneness. It fueled my bitterness at injustice, instead of stoking my wish to be of service. It sometimes kept me out of the present moment and stole my joy.
If you read the book of Job or even the summary, you will see that the Christian story concludes that we are not to judge the distribution of blessings and tribulations. In the story, only God has the whole picture. A secular approach would argue that unless my job was fighting crime, it was not my right or my business to worry about anyone’s share of the distribution of life events and fortune. I’m not a cop, a judge or a jury. Justice was not my job, and it was I who was choosing to be in handcuffs, energetically shackled to a guy that I disliked.
My job is to choose how to approach this life that has been given. I freed myself from those chains by firmly resting my attention on my own practice. Good fortune is largely a matter of attitude: If you can’t find gratitude within yourself, no amount of abundance will help you find it; and for the attentive and grateful heart, even a simple life, with ups and downs, is a contented life.
For what are you most grateful, today?