Gratitude is not an easy topic for me. The longer I live, the more of a curmudgeon I become. I am disheartened by the state of the world, I’m alarmed at what’s happening in our country, and I’m perpetually annoyed by the way people drive. I hate to stand in line, and I meet people regularly whose views and values I detest. That’s all on top of the normal worries, aches, and complaints that come with middle age. OK, maybe all that is a little strong. I’m not as miserable as I sound, but what it means to be grateful in all circumstances is an open question for me.

To get at a deeper understanding of “grateful in all circumstances,” I need to look at my normal approach to gratitude. That’s easy. I am grateful for those things that allow me to feel comfortable, secure, affirmed. These are the things, events, and people that fit my expectations of “good.” They match my preconceived ideas of what should happen.

My gratitude list also includes those things I avoided that did not fit my expectations. How many times have you said or thought, “I’m so thankful that didn’t happen to me.” Again, it is based on what I decide is good for me and the people I love.

Most of us have an intuitive criteria that allows us to decide what is worthy of our thanks and what is not, and it is generally based on how it affects us personally. If we like how it affects us, we are grateful. If we don’t like how it affects us, we grumble. We pick and choose our response of gratitude based on how we evaluate the situation. Simple, and oh so limiting.

That’s selective gratitude. Selective gratitude, picking and choosing things to be grateful for based on how it affect me, has its drawbacks. In fact, selective gratitude is a setup for disappointment and resentment, and it closes us off from some of our most important moments.

And that is the beginning point for the next post.