Thanksgiving, America’s oldest holiday, is by definition a day when we give thanks for the good things in life. Family, friends, work, home, community, and of course, football. Some are thankful for just being able to put food on the table. Some are thankful they are able to do much more than that.
But wherever we are in life, more and more we hear that what we have is a privilege. And it’s not meant in a nice way.
Privilege, as the politicians, professors and protestors use it, means that whatever we have — our home, clothes, car, education, job, marriage, children — is the result of victimizing someone else. Whatever we have, they tell us, it is because we took it (read: stole it) from someone else. It’s a belief that takes everything Americans have always celebrated about innovation and success and turns it into a negative.
The result is the politics of envy. Because if you don’t have something in life, they’ll tell you the reason is someone took it from you. Someone else took that promotion. Someone else took the girl. Someone else’s kid made the travel team. The message of “privilege” and the resulting envy has one goal: to replace gratitude in your life with guilt and envy.
But in America, we used to have another word for privileges. We used to call them blessings.
When we spend our days twisted up in envy about the privileges other people have, or feeling guilty about the things we have, we shrink into ourselves. We turn cold and suspicious. We criticize others for their own pile of privileges. There is no bottom to the rabbit hole of envy, just as there is no limit to the potential of gratitude.
But when we flip that on its head and reflect on our blessings, we open the door to a whole lot of good. We become grateful for everything we have, whether it’s a warm meal at a soup kitchen or the ability to write a check and start a soup kitchen. We become open and giving. We want to share, whether it’s a lavish home or a loaf of bread.
Once we realize how blessed we are, we can’t help but help others. Not out of guilt, but out of love. After all, when Jesus Christ told the rich young man to go and sell all he had, it wasn’t a statement motivated out of greed, or privilege, or envy. It was born out of love.
In the months and years ahead, we’re going to hear more talk about “privilege” that’s meant to make you feel guilty about anything you have in life and to feel envy for what others have. The best and only way to respond is to remember all the ways we are blessed.
Deciding to be thankful for our blessings instead of guilty or envious of privilege not only improves our outlook on life, but will impact those around us, including our children, co-workers, significant others, and even the person across the aisle on that miserable holiday flight home (hey, what a blessing it is to get on a plane and be somewhere in hours, not days!)
Are we going to be a nation of privileged, guilt-ridden, miserable creatures, or a nation of blessed, confident, joyful people?
Which America do you want for your children?
May you have a truly thankful Thanksgiving weekend.