In our world today, it seems that all of our emotions are expressed in a positive and negative form. There is a common theme running through these forms. While reading the previous essays in this series you will probably have noticed that all of the emotions exist in both a selfish form and grateful form. It would seem that the opposite expression of gratitude is selfishness.
When we live in selfishness we are living in either loss, fear, judgment, remorse, hate or greed. Sometimes we are living in more than one of the negative forms of emotion. But the common theme of all negative expressions of emotion is that they cause us to shift our focus inwards in a negative way. When we live in loss we are selfish because we believe that we are undeserving of love. So we push love away, assuming we will never have it. When we live in fear we are selfish because we believe that change brings us pain. So we lose motivation and attempt to hamper change. When we live in judgment we are selfish because we believe that every mistake we make lowers our intrinsic value. So we stop making decisions and allow our superiors to make them for us. When we live in remorse we are selfish because we believe that life is unfair. So we wallow in self-pity. When we live in hate we are selfish because we believe that we are justified in our hate. So we plot against our enemies, in an attempt to bring them pain. When we live in greed we are selfish because we believe that everything in the world “is mine”. So we hoard resources and covet property.
None of these selfish expressions of emotion lead to love. None of them lead to happiness, either. It seems when reading the previous essays, that the path to love is through gratitude. If living in selfishness is pointing your focus inward in a negative way, then living in gratitude is pointing your focus outward in a positive way. When we live in gratitude we are able to perpetuate love and cause happiness, not only in ourselves, but in everyone around us.
When we live in gratitude we are living in either the spirit of receiving, hope, compassion, joy, passion or generosity. The interesting thing about gratitude is that when we heal one aspect of emotion it tends to spread to others around us. When we live in the spirit of receiving we are grateful because we believe that we deserve to be loved. So we share our love with everyone in the expectation that we will receive it back. How could those receiving our love not be grateful? When we live in hope we are grateful because we believe that change brings nothing but possibilities. So we actively pursue change, learning from our mistakes along the way and always moving towards our goals with a positive attitude. How could those witnessing this not be motivated to do the same? When we live in compassion we are grateful because we believe that we are fortunate to have the things we have. So we offer a helping hand to those less fortunate. How could those we reach out to not be grateful? When we live in joy we are grateful because we believe every moment in life brings us more happiness. So we portray ourselves as a calm, joyful soul at all times. How could those witnessing this not be impressed? When we live in passion we are grateful because we believe that we have truly found love. So we submerge ourselves in our love, trying only to help it grow. How could those around us not be convinced to do the same with their love? When we live in generosity we are grateful because we believe that there is more than enough to go around. So we share our excess and expect little in return. How could those receiving our generosity not feel gratitude?
Living in gratitude not only balances our emotions. It also spreads to those around us and allows them to balance their emotions. We are currently living in a society that it very unbalanced. We have entered a cycle of abuse, many thousands of years ago. Unfortunately this cycle is very selfish. Because we see nothing but pain and suffering in the world around us we close ourselves off and shift our focus inwards in a very negative way. This only perpetuates the cycle of abuse, however. Because we are selfish, we never extend any true love to anyone else. Only wounded versions of love. In our woundedness we eventually end up wounding our loved one. This causes them to become selfish, which in turns creates only unbalance.
If we can begin to break this cycle of abuse and begin to introduce a cycle of gratitude, humanity would have a chance to balance their emotions. The thing is, it only takes a few people to start this way of living. Because once they have committed to living in gratitude, those around them cannot help but notice. They will notice because no one else they know lives in this way. You will stand out in the crowd, creating gratitude in those you have touched. The more people that begin to act in this way, the more people they will touch with their gratitude.
But someone has to start. Someone has to be willing to break the cycle of abuse. Selfishness only creates more selfishness. It is time to live our lives in gratitude. It is time begin sharing our love with everyone around us.