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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guilt and Gratitude

I woke up this morning thinking about guilt and gratitude.
Those things were on my mind in part because of a friend’s teen-aged grandson. He is a drug addict, and in recent weeks, his desperate parents have “bet the farm,” so to speak, to try to save him. They have spent the money they had set aside for his college education, plus other funds they have raised through loans, to get him treatment. It’s a huge risk they’re taking.
My guess is that the young man has a good chance of recovery if he can respond to what his parents have done out of gratitude rather than out of guilt. While there is most assuredly guilt he needs to acknowledge and amends he needs to make, can any meaningful or lasting change result if guilt is his primary motivator? I doubt it.
The young man’s story is also, of course, the Easter story in which God “bets the farm” for each of us—and risks it all. How should we respond?
If our choices are guilt or gratitude, shouldn’t we choose gratitude? Of course we each have our own guilt to confess, our own amends to make. But surely what God wants for us is what those parents want for their teenager: a healthy life that is full and rich. A life that is grounded in and shaped by gratitude.
For some reason, though, I often find gratitude to be the more difficult choice. I know full well how to feel guilty, for I seem to have had lots of instruction there, and lots of practice. On the other hand, I do not seem to know quite as much about living freely with a grateful heart.
This Easter season, inspired in part by my hopes for my friend’s grandson, I feel called to explore the possibilities of gratitude. And while I do not know where that exploration will lead me—any more than those parents know where their son’s journey will take him—I am eager to give it a try.
How about you? How does gratitude affect your life and work? How do you foster it? How do you make it your guide?

Angier Brock, Guest Blogger

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