Another drawback to selective gratitude is what we miss with people. In the same confusing manner that Jesus taught us about meekness, persecution, and mourning, he also taught that we are to love our enemies. We are not to love our enemies because it’s the nice thing to do. We love our enemies, because in doing so, we must suspend our judgment of them.

Jesus told a story of two people who went to the temple to pray. One was a religious leader, the other was a person despised by others. The religious leader prayed a haughty prayer of gratitude that he was not like others. The despised person prayed a humble prayer asking for mercy. I was always taught, “Don’t be pious and proud like the religious guy.”

But there’s more than that in this story. It’s about judgment. The story could have been told with the religious leader praying, “Please don’t let my position and privilege blind me to the needs of those around me,” while the despise person could have said, “I hope I am never like that pious bastard.”

why-am-i-afraidJesus knew that we have as much to learn from those who despise us as we do from those who love us. Many years ago I read a small book, Why am I afraid to tell you who I am? The author’s name was John Powell, another John Powell. One of the quotes that stuck with me was, “We are shaped by those who love us and by those who refuse to love us.”

If I spend time only with people for whom I am grateful, that is, people who support my ideas about myself and the world, those who fit my expectations of how people should be, I create an echo chamber for myself. I only hear what I am listening for. I can avoid taking seriously any views that would upset my views.

Learning how to be grateful in all circumstances is about keeping our eyes and hearts open to the very people we would prefer to avoid.

I have never known a time when this was more needed in our country. As a nation we are so polarized in our views about political issues and social issues that we can hardly hear what the other side is saying.

I don’t want to be around or listen to those who see the world differently, who disagree with me and challenge me. But I need to remember that rather than immediately assuming I know who they are and what they think, I should probably invite them for coffee.

So what is the alternative to selective gratitude? That’s next.