Thankful for Having, and for Not Having

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, November 15, 2017
By Todd D. Giardina, PH. D

“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers, Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs, That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care, Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”

Yes, I’m actually starting this blog with a Garth Brooks song lyric. Because it really is important in this context of gratitude. There have been documented psychological benefits to daily and momentary gratitude – stopping to count your blessings. But let’s not forget to be thankful for the things you DON’T have and that DIDN’T happen.

So be grateful for the job you got, the boy who kissed you, the friends you have.
And be thankful for the car accident you narrowly avoided, the illness you no longer have, the terrible relationship you’re no longer in.

Because the what ifs – what if I’d bought the lotto ticket or applied for the job – they could have gone better. But the what ifs – what if I’d waited to get that lump checked or hadn’t gotten out of the car when he was driving – they could have gone worse. The absence of pain and distress is just as worth marking as the presence of gifts and blessings. Don’t just log the missed opportunities, but also the avoided tragedies.

So now we end with a parable. There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.

So celebrate your joys and be grateful for what you have. But also, acknowledge that things could always have gone differently. With such perspective, you can appreciate that NOT having something may in fact be a blessing worthy of your gratitude.