Everything wants to maintain its current state of existence.
That’s only natural.
We can use words like “inertia” to describe this state.
If you are lying asleep in your cozy bed, inertia makes you want to stay there, under the covers.
If a truck is going 90 mph on the freeway, the truck’s inertia makes it easier for it to KEEP going, rather than stop.
If we want to make ourselves get out of bed, or make the truck stop,
we have to apply some kind of counter-force in order to overcome its resistance to change.
The counterforce might be physical: like someone dumping a bucket of ice on your sleepy head.
Or your foot stepping on the brakes to avoid hitting a deer that is standing in the middle of the road.
Or the counter force might be intellectual: like reminding yourself that you are going to fail your exam if you don’t get up and go to class. Or realizing you are going to get a ticket with that police cruiser on your tail, if you don’t slow down.
The counter force might even be moral or spiritual, like setting an intention to wake up early for prayers.
Or reminding yourself that it is wrong to break the speeding laws.
Whatever the reason, the law of inertia states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion: unless a counterforce is applied.
Resistance tells you how MUCH counterforce must be applied, to overcome the inertia and affect the desired change.
It is easier to wake up when you are sleeping lightly after a long night’s sleep, than when you are deep asleep under heavy anesthesia. It is easier to stop a light truck that is coasting on dry level ground at 60 mph, than a double-rig tractor-trailer going 90 mph downhill in the rain.
So how does this apply to thankfulness?
The normal state of inertia that we all tend to live in, is to be ungrateful.
We take things for granted.
We want more…or less.
We think our thighs are too fat.
We’re upset we didn’t get that job.
Or, now that we DID get that job, we wish it was Friday, already.
Moan, bitch, complain.
Some of us are train wrecks waiting to happen, sliding down Complaint Mountain which ends (as we all know) in the Pit of Despair.
Some of us have legitimate sorrows, burdens and complaints to complain about.
And yet, as Dr. Phil would put it:
“How’s that working for ya?”
Ungratefulness may be the natural, easy, inertia-based way.
But, like sleeping through an exam, or speeding downhill on a rain-slick highway, it’s not going to get us where we want and need to go.
So we need to apply a counterforce: thankfulness.
But being thankful is not easy.
No one expects waking up for exams to be easy.
We know there is going to be resistance.
That’s why we set three smartphones up on opposite sides of the bedroom with five alarms each, AND ask our friends to call us to be sure we got up.
That’s why there are brakes, and safety brakes, and brake inspections, and parking brakes… and even a runaway truck lane on steep downhill grades.
But when it comes to being thankful, we don’t EXPECT resistance.
We think it will be easy.
Slam, bam, thank you Sam.
It doesn’t work like that.
How do I know?
Most people don’t realize this because they don’t spend enough time truly TRYING to be thankful, to GET to the resistance.
I know this because I am spending all day every day, focusing on being thankful for everything.
And the first thing that is happening is that I am coming face to face with all the areas of my life that I am NOT thankful for at all.
Things I thought I had deal with years ago are coming back to bite me.
Old irritations, resentments, and grudges are popping up out of nowhere as if to say:
HA! IN YOUR FACE!
The list of things I’m not thankful for is long and distinguished (as they say in Top Gun):
I’m not thankful for
This is if I’m really being honest with myself.
And I am. I am being honest with myself, and most of all, with you.
And with God.
OK, God, I admit it.
I am not thankful.
I am angry and grouchy and mad.
I am upset at all the things that haven’t worked out the way I wanted them to.
I am heartbroken about all the people I’ve loved and lost.
I am jealous of others’ success and happiness, especially those that happened at my expense.
In other words, I am a normal human being.
I’m glad we got THAT out on the table.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that YOU, dear reader, are a normal human being too.
I think we can count on that.
What does that mean for us as we delve into our exploration of thankfulness?
It means that in order to be truly thankful, we have to overcome resistance.
There is resistance within us to being thankful.
Left to our own devices, our normal state of inertia is to be unthankful, ungrateful, and non-appreciative.
How are we going to overcome this?
We could apply PHYSICAL measures, like wearing a (loose) rubber band around our wrist and slapping ourselves with it every time we think or speak an ungrateful thought.
I don’t find that type of behavior-modification approach effective.
It doesn’t produce real change.
It does not lead to true thankfulness.
We could use psychological measures and reasoning, like telling ourselves that it’s important to be thankful.
That’s what I HAVE been doing, personally, so far.
The interesting thing is that that has just increased my inertia and made me more aware of the many ways I am NOT thankful.
Telling myself to be thankful because I SHOULD be and it’s a “good idea” is like telling a surly teenager to wake up, without a large water gun to back you up.
Ok, so what? Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Back to sleep.
And… chalk up another win for inertia!
So, it’s time to bring in the big guns: spiritual warfare.
Let’s remember how I got INTO this project, to begin with.
I didn’t come up with the Thankfulness Project because I thought it was “nice” or “a good idea”.
I started this project because I was at a complete dead end in my life.
All other paths had failed.
And then I turned to God and asked HIM what HE wanted me to do.
And the answer that came to me (immediately and without any hesitation or ambiguity) was:
So I started working on that, every day, in depth.
And the first thing that came up was all this RESISTANCE.
That is actually a GOOD thing, because it tells me that being thankful is going to produce REAL, DEEP, LASTING CHANGE: in my life. In your life. In the world.
How do I know?
The resistance is showing me that.
The only reason for resistance is that some force is trying to produce change.
The resistance comes up to try to STOP that change.
It is the nature of matter at all levels (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) to RESIST change.
The greater the potential for change, the more resistance there is going to be.
So the first thing we can do is be THANKFUL for the resistance to thankfulness itself.
That resistance tells us that we are on to something REAL.
We are going to make a difference.
We are going to produce change.
In order for that to happen, though, we can’t just sink back into our bed of heedlessness (Or, keep speeding downhill in the rain at 90 mph). We need to apply a counterforce.
We need to make ourselves wake up, and make ourselves slow down.
We need to sit up and pay attention.
The first thing to pay attention to is the resistance to thankfulness, itself.
It’s not effective to get into a fight with it.
Resistance is natural. It’s a force of nature.
It’s found in everything: there is electrical resistance when you try to put a current through a wire.
There is biological resistance which helps organisms stay alive but also helps germs get around the antibiotics we use to kill them.
There is psychological resistance that therapists go to school for years to learn how to overcome so they can help people grow and change.
Resistance is part of nature, like gravity.
Have you ever had an argument with gravity? Who won? (I thought so).
So the first thing we need to do as we embark on this exploration of thankfulness, is NOTICE that it arouses a great deal of resistance.
It shows us all the areas of our lives where we are NOT thankful.
And rather than fighting that resistance directly (which would not be effective because right now, as we begin this journey, the resistance is stronger than we are), we are just going to observe it.
We are just going to acknowledge that that resistance to thankfulness is there.
(Noticing that something is there is the first step in dealing with it, after all).
And once we have noticed that resistance to thankfulness, we are going to apply an Aikido move.
Do you know Aikido?
That’s the martial art where you use the energy of your opponent’s inertia against him.
Instead of fighting directly, you simply step out of the way and let YOUR OPPONENT’S inertia make him fall flat on his face.
That’s how we are going to handle our resistance to thankfulness.
We are going to be thankful for it.
We are going to kill it with kindness.
We are going to be thankful for it, because it is fulfilling a purpose in trying to help us preserve the status quo.
Our resistance to being thankful for everything in our lives… TRULY thankful, not “wishy washy Pollyanna fluffy bunnies and unicorns” thankful…… serves an important purpose: it is there to keep us the same, so we don’t change and grow.
If we want to change and grow, we have to apply a force strong enough to overcome the inertia that keeps us glued to the couch binge-watching TV series we missed when they first came out in 2004.
(Not that there is anything wrong with doing that, either… as long as we do it in a spirit of thankful enjoyment rather than as a means of escape from whatever is wrong in our lives.)
Here is how we are going to deal with our resistance to being TRULY thankful:
As you go through your day focusing on thankfulness, notice the areas of resistance that come up. Pick one of these areas of resistance and write about it in your journal. How is this area of resistance trying to help you preserve the status quo in your life? How can you be thankful for it? What is one practical thing you can do to start changing it ?