Friday, November 18, 2016

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on having gratitude for our blessings

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1986, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1986 until his passing in 2008 at age 91
"I believe that many people are unhappy because they have not learned to be grateful. Some carry the burden of bitterness and resentfulness for many years. Some pass their days as though suffering a deep sadness they cannot name. Others are unhappy because life didn't turn out the way they thought it would.
"'If only I had money," some might say to themselves, "then I could be happy.'
"'If only I were better-looking.'
"'If only I were smarter.'
"'If only I had a new car, a college degree, a job, a wife, hair that wasn't so frizzy.' (Or, in my case, if only I had more hair or I were 12 inches taller.)
"If we only look around us, there are a thousand reasons for us not to be happy, and it is simplicity itself to blame our unhappiness on the things we lack in life. It doesn't take any talent at all to find them. The problem is, the more we focus on the things we don't have, the more unhappy and more resentful we become.
"Over the course of my years, I have met thousands of people. I have dined with the prosperous as well as the poverty-stricken. I have conversed with the mighty and with the meek. I have walked with the famous and the feeble. I have run with outstanding athletes and those who are not athletically inclined.
"One thing I can tell you with certainty is this: You cannot predict happiness by the amount of money, fame, or power a person has. External conditions do not necessarily make a person happy. The Brethren who have had assignments in poorer countries report that despite the abject poverty, the people are very happy. The fact is that the external things so valued by the world are often the cause of a great deal of misery in the world.
"Those who live in thanksgiving daily, however, are usually among the world's happiest people. And they make others happy as well."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Live in Thanksgiving Daily," BYU Devotional, 31 October 2000; see Ensign, Sept 2001, p. 6
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It seems there are as many reasons we can be ungrateful as there are to be grateful! Elder Wirthlin mentions a number of them: we haven't really learned how to be grateful; we are carrying burdens of resentment or bitterness; we have a deep unknown sadness.

He spends more time on the problem of the "if only" syndrome, when we dwell on what might have been had certain things happened, or not happened, in our lives. This often comes as we compare ourselves to others around us, wishing that we had lives or situations more like those of our neighbors. As we dwell on things we don't have (wishing we did), we find ourselves slipping into a spiral of unhappiness and resentment.

Elder Wirthlin testifies from his own experience that real happiness does not result from some of those things we so often desire: wealth, fame, or power.

So, according to Elder Wirthlin, the key to happiness is learning to "live in thanksgiving daily." We need to focus on the blessings and gifts, not the perceived shortcomings; and learn to express gratitude for all the good things we have and enjoy. That not only changes how we view the world, it will change how the world views us.

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