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Many wise people, both religious and secular, point to the vital importance of gratitude in the pursuit of a happy life. The ability to give thanks, to God and each other, is an essential skill for all of us to learn.
However, it is easier said than done, as we have a natural tendency to take things for granted, especially if our lives are blessed with many material possessions. In fact, its is easier for us to want more than to be thankful for what we have.
The key to overcome this greedy inclination and to foster a spirit of thanksgiving is the virtue of humility.
St. Vincent de Paul, in his Introduction to the Devout Life, explains this central spiritual principle.
A lively appreciation of the grace given to you should make you humble, for appreciation begets gratitude .. .Any one who will calmly consider what he has done without God, cannot fail to realize that what he does with God is no merit of his own; and so we may rejoice in that which is good in us, and take pleasure in the fact, but we shall give all the glory to God Alone, Who Alone is its Author.
At the same time, St. Vincent de Paul points out how this can also work in reverse: gratitude can lead to humility.
Nothing so tends to humble us before the Mercy of God as the multitude of His gifts to us; just as nothing so tends to humble us before His Justice as the multitude of our misdeeds. Let us consider what He has done for us.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the prime examples of a truly humble individual, who gave thanks to God for his wondrous deeds.
It was in this spirit that the Blessed Virgin confessed that God had done “great things” to her; only that she might humble herself and exalt Him. “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” she said, by reason of the gifts He had given her.
If we find ourselves having a difficult time being thankful for all that we have been given, let us foster within our soul a spirit of humility, recognizing God’s presence in our lives. He is the one who guides us and provides for us on a daily basis.
When we recognize God’s providential care for us, we can raise up our hearts to him and thank him for everything he has given. This same spirit of humility will also direct our actions towards others, recognizing how dependent we are on others and the things they do for us.
Thanksgiving and humility go hand-in-hand and both help us unlock the key to a joy-filled life.
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