Three Things in Life are a series of posts on the most important aspects of living. These are guidelines and rules that would bring happiness, satisfaction, and wholesome life. Not only material prosperity but the overall abundance of living. This is a series to what is real success.
The second topic of lour Three Things in Life Series is the impportant habits to develop.
2. Three important habits to develop
Habits are building blocks of character. Attitude and habits are part of character. To gain great character we should inculcate three great habits, they are habit of gratitude, habit of preparedness and habit of cheerfulness. A positive attitude should develop these habits. A person who has good habits, has a head start in life. When I was in my early teens I heard my father said, there was no one among us who would inquire how he was. It was not that we didn’t care but we were so comfortable of the set-up we thought it was the way it was. We don’t have a habit in the family of expressing our appreciation. We didn’t have the habit of showing our gratitude. And were too out of the radar on writing about matters of the heart, we were cool living a life in our comfort zone. It did not come to our consciousness the need to send across our gratitude even effort meant for our earthly father didn’t entered our plans. We were brought up to live in the same way people around us live. We went through the day eat, play, come home, sleep with some talks in between usually a command or instruction what we should do like change shirt, wash face, say prayers, without hearing the word I love you from the mouth of anyone. Being talkative of our respect and love is nil it did not enter in our mind. We show our respect and love by putting the hand of our parents on our forehead, by saying ‘po’ or ‘opo’ and by being obedient. I would say it’s a goose bump almighty awkward to the highest degree if we do say things like I love you.
Today, I say I love you to my siblings and parents occasionally. Most of us would not express these words to our father though I am sure we all love our father dearly. It maybe in different form, thoughts and degree but all the same we respect and love and honor our parents. We are more expressive of our love to our mother because she was there with us all the time while we were young. Though I thought we have improved a lot through the years. My own family are always saying the words because it is natural for us to do so beside it feels good. This father’s comment was when he had been working abroad and had been to many countries in the Middle East and South East Asia as an Overseas Filipino Worker. He has been a long time OFW till he retired at the age of sixty. He used to work like the majority of OFW’s for two straight years before going home availing a one-month leave. Usually, we had only a few days bonding, if it was bonding. We were aloof with our own father except maybe the eldest sibling. It was the result of his absence, communication gap has naturally developed in our psyche. We felt uneasy about being in the presence of our father in flesh. We felt overwhelmed, we were conscious on what to say, what to do. The joy and yearning were mixed up with feeling of someone disturbing routine of our life without the head of the family. It also felt like someone was intruding in our own world of peace. We felt we were forced to be around him and stay without talking much for want of what to say. Now I understood fully well why he had sadly commented our lack of concern on him. We were not expressive because of the unknown. While we know him as out father, we felt or at least I felt like I am beside a stranger more than a father. Having said that, I salute and appreciate my father’s sacrifice for all of us, for our education and our future. I have been in abroad for more than three decades and I witnessed first-hand the struggle of compatriots. Their sacrifices were heart-rending. They do what must be done and mostly what they have been doing is not short of slavery. Sometimes some Pinay in order to earn money for their family back home they resorted into prostitution. Never complaining of being overworked only thankful of having a job. Pinoys were just grateful they earn their mite for their loved ones. Even their earnings were so little. Happy enough just to provide for their families. With tears, I silently and secretly salute them. I tried to advise some of them, being like a financial coach by telling and explaining them financial literacy and entrepreneurship for which I only understood in more theory than in practice. I feel it is ingrained for many Pinoy splurging their money for a quick fix of pleasure and a temporary enjoyment rather than investing the money for something that will help them secure a good future. Maybe because Pinoy have mental blindness on these very important alternative. I was just like them struggling all the same. Generally Pinoys put great importance to gratitude. We have a word called debt of gratitude whereby we are indebted for the rest of our life. As a good person we are obliged to help whenever the one who helped us asked for assistance, especially our parents. In fact, they do not need to ask. Mostly it comes regularly, helping them becomes a joy and a satisfaction they could repay them back with their needs. I saw the extreme of what debt of gratitude could make to the one who gave too much without keeping a portion for his future, those were lessons I am not going to do. That is why I suppose many parents expect children to sustain and provide for them in their old age. Now, looking back I and two or three of my siblings that time should have written him letters to express our deep gratitude, love and longingness for him which I was sure we all had felt. And probably we all meant to write but for lack of guts to write our appreciation for his sacrifice and inquired on what was actually happening to him, the mutual feelings and intention to send our father a note or a letter were not actualized. When he left for abroad once again, our bonding no matter how uneasy or awkward it was made us felt and realized how much we missed our father’s love toward us just the same. But we had our deep gratitude and more. But it was not shown. Gratitude not shown is not gratitude. We were ungrateful for that matter and till today I feel sorry for my father. He has suffered so much we overlooked it because we only looked with things he had done that hurt us all as family not knowing how much he suffered more including struggling abroad to give us all education and future. I am grateful and proud of my tatay (dad) as our father. To be objective our sufferings, his children was even more painful and difficult because of perennial lack of everything. We hardly eat and if we did it was almost always be ‘elivas delight’ rice with oil and salt wrapped in a banana leaves. To be able to have this delight is like a feat. I realized our joy is simple. Just having rice to pass the day we felt so blest. We were happy children filled with silent struggle from hunger and a hope tomorrow would be a new day. My father did not abandon us he carried on giving us provision even at times it is two months delay. All the same we are what we are because of my father. The words I and my siblings and my mother should have told decades ago. The habit of appreciation and acknowledgment on things you have is gratitude. There are people who said, ‘do not show appreciation for they will have a big head and may become arrogant and abusive in the end.’ This argument is very wrong since it is based on fear. I believe human nature is good and dictated by the upbringing one has acquired. We usually want to do the right thing rather than the other way around. We are naturally happy, loving and pure while we are very young until the influence of the surrounding environment come into play. To express gratitude is a sign of good upbringing and trustworthiness if it is accompanied by deeds. Maybe I did not arrive to where I dreamt to go but I think I have arrived to where I must be; knowing this I am very grateful. Gratitude is a sign of good human nature. Gratitude is an important ingredient of joy. All of us must create our own joyful life. It is not a recipe we can just make and presto joy is served. It is something we create in our heart. Let us not too focus on our world, our own dramas all the time, we should know that there is more life outside the window of your house passing you by. Get out and create goodness to others because by doing so it will return to you.
Furthermore, gratitude is more than giving or having appreciation on other good deeds. While appreciation is the same, gratitude has a deeper dimension. It causes you to do some more good deeds to others, it has deeper emotional dimension and a virtue that comes growing in the soul. It is good to be loved and to love. Gratitude is a prosperity multiplier. Others said they are prosperous because of greed. They are ignorant what prosperity means. Prosperity is never about money alone. Prosperity means success in health, peace of mind, contentment, love and among others if you follow the golden rule and seek for the things of God. That is prosperity and is a gratitude based. Prosperity is the spouse of gratitude, while charity is the offspring. Gratitude puts life in order and expresses sincere thankfulness even rejoicing for whatever happened or for what we are. And reset the perspective of life into a twenty-twenty vision. Gratitude create lightness and erases heaviness of life. It eradicates bitterness, envy, jealousy, greed and all those abominable emotions. Gratitude creates prosperity in terms of positive effect in our existence. Prosperity does not only mean money or something we see, it is also something we feel and possess in our heart, mind and soul like as I said joy, peace of mind and contentment. ‘Beloved I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospered.’ 3 John 1:2. The world still continues to live and grow happier because of gratitude. It is well served in expressing it thru actions and appreciations even thru small note, little gifts, words or giving a house and lot maybe. Saying ‘it is good to see you’, ‘thank you’, ‘welcome’, ‘hi’, ‘hello’ are little links of gratitude which connects our spirit to another. Being grateful is contentment and a great gain as St. Paul stated ‘not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthen me.’ Philippians 4:11.
Being grateful is sometimes construed as putting on grease for an ulterior motive. Sometimes, grateful person is open to abuse as most of these evil character misunderstood it as weakness. Giving generously to some people who they might think were insignificant to be given such things or gracious attention or importance is for others but stupid and naive. In addition, doing this kindness is sometimes seen by evil eyes as gullibility. So some might think of taking advantage of such magnanimity. They are mistaken. A person who knows how to pay back debt of gratitude is one who knows life deeper than those evil men. The absence of gratitude is rudeness and disgrace. It is also a curse of being ungrateful for it makes life heavy, complex and empty. To ‘honor our parents’ Exodus 20:12 unconditionally is a sign of gratitude for they are instrumental in giving us life. It is a commandment that entails precious promises that doing so we may live a long life. It is important to have gratitude but it should be in the right context of reason and motive. To render gratitude by doing evil things in return to some manipulative crooks is against God’s will. It is not the right way of paying gratitude to a crook. Like for example, to do for a crook you owed wrong things to his political rival because he has given you some favors is not a way to pay your debt of gratitude. It does not mean you are obliged to do what they want. You are not obliged to show your gratitude if it first violate morality, principles and values and more so the commandments of God. You must use wisdom, avoid and go far away from these evil men. Avoid having to do with this kind of immoral so as not to be beholden to them. In fact, you are freed from rendering gratitude for they did you a favor for an evil intention. ‘Evil will never leave the house of one who pays back evil for good.’ Proverbs 17:13. Gratitude is given for good intention and pure moral taste. It should be voluntary. Do not pay back when you know doing it will end up in commission of immorality, graft and corruption or of a crime. Anyone that asked to hurt someone whether innocent or not is wrong in the first place. Repaying of gratitude must be voluntary not obligatory, it must always come from the heart. If this is the case, you are freed from doing anything at all. To be grateful is to do good to oneself and to all others only. Above all gratefulness is to live holy and perfect by the grace of God. For the Lord Jesus commanded us to even ‘love our enemy.’ Luke 6:27-36. For God said, ‘Be holy for I am holy. 1Peter 1:16. Gratitude is an attribute of holiness and perfect love. He also said, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ Matthew 5:48. To be alive, in itself is a reason to be grateful about. In an unwritten law of life the giver is blessed more of prosperity both material and spiritual than the receiver. It is a way of ‘laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven.’ Matthew 6:20. One of the reasons of our existence is to pay good works forward in some form towards humanity. ‘Love one another as I have loved you’, said the Lord, John 13:34. Again, prosperity is the spouse of gratitude, while charity or giving is the child. To honor our parents is to be grateful and doing so is an expression of humility, joy and love, only a person with gratitude in his heart shall appreciate this statement.
Preparedness is also important in order to fortify yourself from untoward development or unseen circumstances that actually befall everyone from time to time. ‘A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.’ Proverbs 27:12. Preparedness is first to pray without ceasing, being watchful and ready to show your courage and faith. ‘For the adversary is like a roaring lion waiting for the moment when we are caught off guarded ready to devour us.’ 1Peter 5:8. In life this is the reality and more. We are bombarded by our daily concerns and foes in the cloak of friends, colleagues, bosses and so forth. Our greatest enemy who could inflict the worst harm is you yourself. To live in this world is to understand the wiles of deceit. We are bought out of this world like sheep in the midst of wolves; a prepared person is ready and watchful, as it is written ‘be wise as a serpent but be harmless as a dove.’ Mathew 10:16. It takes guidance and knowledge which are generously all in the manual for man, the Holy Bible. Preparedness is an antidote ‘against time and circumstances’ Ecclesiastes 9:11. Preparedness should be both spiritual and physical. For anything beyond our control is in the realms of spiritual. God’s will has to be fulfilled and we must abide. Preparedness gives a lot of difference from living a life like those of fish and beasts. Preparedness means understanding of the will of God and knowing that He wants us to have an ‘abundant life.’ John 10:10b, a ‘life of peace’ Philippians 4:7, and a great ‘hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11.
Habit of cheerfulness is the flavor that makes your life richer, more colorful, more positive, braver, and brighter to a rather gloomy day. ‘Whatever is your circumstance give praise and thanks to the Lord our God.’ 1Thessalonians 5:18. There should not be even a small crevice for distraction and boredom or laziness enter between your blocks of faith and hope guarding your boxes of dreams and goals. Distraction, boredom and laziness are like termites that eat away even the very foundation of your preparedness. Being prepared is also being watchful on your dream with all your heart and soul. That is when your preparedness becomes more distinct to the point of maintaining focus all throughout until realization and beyond. Remember the main goal why you are learning. It is to prepare your future. The world is not for the rich it is not for the strong or wise and learned, whether rich or poor, bad or good life is uncertain, we are subjected to time and circumstances, Ecclesiastes 9:11. It was when Yolanda hit the Philippines, we saw while there were utter destruction beyond belief. Towns were totally destroyed. Thousands of lives lost. And yet the ones left behind we witnessed how prepared their hearts were; we saw them smiling and starting all over again. Therefore, it is not more on preparation physically or mentally. It is more on the preparation of our lives spiritually. Spiritual preparedness makes us endure, withstand the test of time and situations we may face each day. Resiliency is borne out from the repeated experiences of calamities pounding us. Indeed ‘the battle is not physical, it is spiritual.’ Ephesians 6:12. I remember when I was a boy scout our motto was to be prepared. We were trained to be prepared at all times by learning first aid, surviving obstacle course, learning survival skills and knowledge like directions, compass reading, knot tying, signaling, discipline, team work, innovation, resourcefulness. Scout motto is filled with noble ideals and virtues we have learned through practical application in camping, in school activities, training courses, hiking, jamboree, jamboree and the like. We were trained to prepare for the unknown, anticipate what may happen. Preparedness include reinforcing your strength in financial and emotional challenges and more importantly spiritual battles. Be ready.
Cheerfulness is the mark of fantastic attitude. Why worry, you cannot change things as they are. ‘Do not even worry about your life.’ Matthew 6:25. Cheerfulness is the fruit of gratitude. When you are grateful you become joyful. ‘A joyful heart makes a cheerful face.’ Proverbs 15:13. Cheerfulness makes us healthy and wiser. Cheerfulness includes sense of humor. It is the mother of laughter. And laughter is the best medicine, and the best antidote against worry. Why worry, ‘we cannot even know what will be tomorrow.’ James 4:14. Being cheerful is ‘to pray without ceasing.’ 1 Thessalonian 5:17. ‘Do not worry, instead pray to God for everything, tell him what you need and thank him for all He has done’, Philippians 4:6. My mother’s good nature is she laughed to her heart’s content. As a teenager I was already aware of her burden carrying all of us nine children all by herself. My father had to go abroad in order to have a fighting chance in supporting us in everything. With additional responsibility of meeting all the needs and requirements of each of the children requirement from schools and universities, she had to hold to a two-edged knife of usury when urgent needs came pestering our poor family. In addition, quite honestly I used to be a double burden for my mother as I used to be demanding and aggressive. She had to find money for me to pay off my board and lodging which I did not normally pay fully to have some extra money for my own entertainment and whatever and of course money for tuition fees. But yet lo and behold my mother would burst out laughing at me as I told her my litany of ‘woes and struggles’ which were but an exaggeration. It turned out like a comedy story for my mother. She took life as it came and had very strong faith in God. She looked after our needs and well-being, all nine of us with equal love and care. She was a woman of character so rare and precious to behold. The glue by which we remained together all throughout the turbulence of our family life. Like my mother my father has an unbreakable confidence in me. He believed in all I said I thought. Even if I would be lying through my teeth. He would tell me I could handle anything for he said I was brave and he believed in me saying it in a convincing and cheerful way. He has been telling me all these in many ways and forms that I believed it like the sun would always rise up from the east. My father is the steel and like a cheering coach who prodded me to carry on in all my trying times in life. Both of my parents have the indomitable cheer in their souls which I probably inherited and I guess the same with all of us my siblings. Cheerful disposition in life entails a can do spirit and a person who knows that nothing is so important to feel down and fret.’ ‘Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong, for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.’ Psalm 37:1-2. It is easy said than done; all of these are so if you do not believe in God. However, once we believed we can align our focus and energy equipped with the knowledge of what is the most important habit to develop, we are and will always be on the right track. To develop these three habits is to be equipped both in this world and beyond. These three habits should form part of your character. They are powerful combinations in ensuring a purposeful joyful life. Gratitude is the mark of a humble heart. Preparedness is the mark of a prudent wise man. He is more likely to avoid many tragedies and evil by careful actions and preparation against the windfall of evil circumstances. Cheerfulness is the heart of a positive mind and the weapon of a brave heart. Like Filipinos orphaned by colonial abuse and always visited by calamities both man-made and nature, cheers never leave their soul manifested by smiles and laughter, mocking and joking through joyful cheer always anticipating tomorrow is another day. It sees through beautiful things amidst the thick smoke of evil. Cheerfulness makes life a joyful ride till the end.
And these I said for you to remember:
Three most important habits, one’s gratitude, learn to give. Have a habit to prepare, be watchful and be aware. Last is habit of cheerfulness, it gives you strength that’s endless.
In the end gratitude is making use of the opportunity presented before our eyes and be prepared to take action the opportunity and do so with cheer in your heart. Gratitude is a prosperity multiplier.