Hyper-secularism has fed an age of narcissism, and narcissists are incapable of true gratitude. On this Thanksgiving Day 2023, I pray for them and our United States of America. Even in a nation suffering the consequences of political divisions, we remain a blessed people. Yet, in an age of narcissism, far too many Americans would rather condemn privilege than even acknowledge, let alone be thankful for their own blessings. Let each of us be truly mindful of all of our blessings, and be thankful. We have much for which to be grateful.
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Thanksgiving and Language
Language matters. Words convey ideas, and they are essential building blocks in how we live with others. So much so that politics not only builds from language, it often impacts the very definition of words. On this Thanksgiving Day, let us consider six words: privilege, blessing, narcissism, secularism, liberty and grateful.
“Privilege” is a word that has seen its definition revised in recent times. In one of my wellness and engagement training courses (You Ask Yourself, Why Me? Why Now?), I noted that the word “privilege” is now often used politically to divide. Then I acknowledged that among my privileges were being born in America to two loving parents. Privilege has long held a meaning making reference to a “right, immunity, or benefit” held by some and not others. Now the definition also includes a specific reference to the advantages being “unearned.” There is truth in this revision.
However, there is another word that captures such unearned advantages better, and that word interestingly does not show up in the synonyms list for “privilege” from Dictionary.com’s companion site. That word is “blessing.” I remain unconfused. I have been blessed. I have received “special favor, mercy, or benefit.” I know as well from Whom blessings originate.
These Times and Our History
While the marketing team for our modern times would not use the wordnarcissism, clearly much in our culture promotes an obsession with self. We are told we are all due a participation trophy, and social media declares not only can we have millions of friends, what we had for lunch today is of concern to all of them. Or at least it should be. We are the center of our universe, aren’t we? It is all about me, isn’t it? In a word, no.
Our founders did not advance secularism. Many today have been deliberately confused about the meaning of America’s separation of church and state. The First Amendment does not seek a nation free from religion, rather it acknowledges the freedom of religion. Each American is free to practice their own religious beliefs without having such convictions imposed upon them by the government. In my post “Thank God for Independence Day,” I took a closer look at the deliberate appeals to God that were embedded into the American Revolution.
In 1798, John Adams succinctly instructed: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Insistence on a entirely secular society fosters narcissism within individuals. From there, if the self is all that is in the center of each person’s world, our communities suffer. Greed and lawlessness are unleashed, and this certainty follows: Lawless places are always inevitably violent ones.
As Americans, we were all born into times that have also clearly benefited from the liberties that come with a republic, even an imperfect one. Liberty from foreign rule, as well as from arbitrary and despotic government. As no American alive today fought in the American Revolution, on that level alone, one might argue our liberties were unearned. Thank God our founders understood that our liberties come not from government, but are “endowed by our Creator.”
Truth in a Preamble
The preamble to the United States Constitution is instructive. It provides two key lessons that remain important. First, the “why” behind the system of governance that the document established. Second, liberty itself is a blessing. Narcissists do not bestow blessings, nor do they concern themselves with the liberty of others. The preamble reads:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Being born in American is a blessing that, to use the word preferred by many critics, brings privilege. How do we know all of us remain blessed? In just the past two years, millions more people have walked up to and crossed our southern border. They have come from nearly every corner of the world. Many self-described sanctuary cities have begun to learn the challenges border communities have long understood. Economics have long been a key driving force behind emigration and immigration. But, historically the draw to be in America has run deeper. It was a place to live true to the blessings of liberty.
If America is to continue to be blessed place, we must first acknowledge our collective and individual blessings. We must be truly grateful. We must be deeply appreciative of gifts we have received. Let us not miss the opportunity given to us to share a Day of Thanksgiving.