The Elixir of Life: Gratitude

August 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Chapter 11

No doubt we’ve all heard that we can’t love and appreciate others until we truly love and appreciate ourselves.

But most of us have some deep dark doubts about ourselves. In fact, if we are brutally honest, we feel guilty (at least some of the time) because we know we’ve done things we are not proud of—and we think, “If the world really knew everything about me, it wouldn’t think I was a very good person.”

You’ve had those thoughts before, at least if you’re normal. Rabbi Harold F. Kushner, in his book, Living a Life That Matters, makes that point very strongly by saying,

“Good people do bad things.”

But he goes on to say,

“If they weren’t mightily tempted by their ‘yetzer hara’ (evil inclination) they might not be capable of the mightily good things they do.”

He then goes on to tell of the Native American tribal leader who describes his own inner struggles by saying, “There are two dogs inside me. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.”

Someone asked him which dog usually wins, and after a moment’s reflection he answered, “The one I feed the most.”

Kushner continued,

“Good people will do good things—lots of them, because they are good people. They will do bad things because they are human.”

Celebrate the Good

So the bottom line here is even if you know you are not perfect, it’s important to take time to toast and be grateful for the good things you’ve accomplished and those tough goals you’ve reached. Always remember the wise words of Rabbi Kushner and don’t be so hard on yourself.

No one’s perfect—not you, not me!

So, start forgiving yourself now, have a little gratitude (ditch the humility for a while), and hey, why not make a toast about putting all that guilt behind you.

Focus on all the good you’ve done, and the new journey you are embarking on now and the good that will come from that. It will help feed the good dog inside of you. Remember this from the Dalai Lama’s book, The Compassionate Life, where he said, “Everyone’s real enemy is within themselves—enemies are not on the outside.”