Count Your Blessings? Or Seize the Day!

What does it mean to call something (or someone) a ‘blessing’?

Usually, the term has a religious or supernaturalist reference. In other words, to call something a blessing is to speak of it as an almost causeless wonder.

In my world, a ‘blessing’ is really an opportunity made manifest. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, ‘Chance favors the prepared.’ The defining virtue is not whether you get a chance—but whether you take one, and how well you do with it.

A lot of people, when they speak of blessings, are thinking about good luck or good fortune somehow bestowed on them. This erases all personal responsibility for the positive occurrence, just as a criminal or a cheater might try to erase all personal responsibility for bad occurrences on his watch.

I once talked to an overly humble woman who had just opened a successful restaurant, an unlikely type of place in an even more unlikely setting. ‘The Washington Post’ critic had even given her five stars. She took a chance on something new at the time, and she achieved it. She was filled to capacity and the food was fabulous.

I complimented her on her success and she emphatically said, ‘No, it’s God’s blessing. It’s all His.’ I asked her if her hours of work and choice to take a risk had anything at all to do with it. ‘No,’ she smiled with the full serenity of a deeply religious person.

A year later, the restaurant was closed and abandoned.

We’re told that the meek shall inherit the earth. That’s the old-fashioned way of putting it. The modern way of putting it is, ‘You didn’t build that.’ Both the old-fashioned and modern way of putting it is, ‘We are all our brother’s keepers.’

These sayings are all manifestations of a belief in unearned guilt. Unearned guilt refers to guilt for simply being alive, and human. The more you exercise your humanity—through achievement, accomplishment and profit—the more you presumably have to feel guilty about. Really twisted, isn’t it? Yet that’s the issue very few psychotherapists will ever encourage you to consider.

Guilt is not always irrational. Guilt emotions over an error or wrongdoing are perfectly reasonable, and part of what make an individual person capable of objective justice and fairness. But achievement is not guilt. You have not done something wrong, something to feel guilty about, because you accomplished something. In our culture, most of us get mixed messages on this. On the one hand, we’re encouraged to succeed, achieve and are often praised when we do. But when we cross over the invisible line of succeeding “too much”…then there’s all this talk of needing to “give back.” I’m not only talking money here. It’s the deeper issue, of which money is merely a consequence. It’s as if by accomplishing “too much” we have “taken” something unidentified from others. What, exactly, did we take? It’s never identified, because it isn’t true.

All of these sentiments serve to undermine not only freedom and private property, but self-esteem at the root. They’re psychological (and sometimes literal) clubs people use to keep each other down, usually in the name of some unnamed and twisted, evil motive. The people we call ‘teachers’ or ‘leaders’ are often the ones who preach self-denigration the loudest. Doesn’t it ever occur to their students to question the motives of those who encourage them to attack their own self-esteem and self-respect?

If you allow yourself to believe that good comes from the outside, instead of from your own efforts, then you’re subject to everything from dictatorship to depression.

I recognize that we don’t control everything. I realize that a good opportunity can unexpectedly, and outside of your choice, suddenly open up.

But what good is a ‘good opportunity’ if you don’t seize it, and competently take advantage of it? We call it a good opportunity—or even ‘good luck’—only in hindsight, after somebody does something worthwhile with it.

If you’re making the most you can of your life, then you are taking advantage of the opportunities and chances which come your way, as well as creating many of your own. Don’t let anyone else, or the background noise of your own mind, ever tell you otherwise.


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