The Dutch priest and theologian Henri J.M. Nouwen, writing in The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, had the following to say about gratitude:
Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint. I can choose to be grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart responds in bitterness. I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly. I can choose to listen to the voices that forgive and to look at the faces that smile, even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred.”
Anticipating the rancor and resentment to come this week when we will certainly “hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred,” we can make a conscious choice. We all have the responsibility — which means the ability to respond — with words and actions that build up rather than tear down.
Real leaders are those who recognize the fragility of moments like the one we are in and lead with affirmative words and actions that build us up. True and authentic leaders — recognizing the power and strength of gratitude — make that conscious choice.
More to come…