Gratitude in Advance

To know something is not as good as loving it; to love something is not as good as rejoicing in it.” —Confucius

When I read this quote from Confucius, it made me pause. His first point, “to know something is not as good as loving it,” seems like a no-brainer; any normal person would agree that love is the most basic human need. But his second point is something we rarely think about: “to love something is not as good as rejoicing in it.”

“Rejoice” differs from love in that rejoice means to feel or show great joy or delight. Upon reflection, I realized there are a lot of things that I love but that I don’t necessarily “rejoice” in. I love my family members, for example, but how much do I rejoice in them? If I did rejoice in them more, what would that look like? Would I stop noticing the things about them that bother me? Would I be more aware of everything going on in their lives? Would I genuinely celebrate their every success? Would I marvel at who they are and cherish every moment with them?

What prevents us from rejoicing? Our rejoicing is blocked or stalled when something comes between us and the thing that we love: fears, doubts, drama, distractions . . . or simply time.

For example, it’s hard to rejoice in someone you love when you’ve had a falling out with them and you don’t know when they’ll be ready to reconcile. It’s hard to rejoice in the talents and hobbies that you love when the cares of everyday life have crowded them out and you feel like you don’t have time for them. It’s hard to rejoice in the goals and dreams that you love when you worry if they’ll ever come to pass.

When you break down the word “rejoice,” it sounds like re-joy; something that once caused you joy in the past is now causing you joy again and again. But how can you have joy in something again if you’ve either forgotten what that first joy felt like—or you never experienced joy in the first place (as in the case of a future dream or goal)?

When we feel a certain way, but we want to feel a different way, then gratitude is the great bridge. And the secret to rejoicing every day is to express gratitude in advance. Expressing gratitude in advance means to be grateful for something even when it hasn’t happened yet. In other words, you imagine the intensity of joy and gratitude that you will feel when you obtain that something, and then you ask yourself, “Why wait? I choose to live with that feeling now.” Having that feeling of gratitude in advance acts as a magnet, attracting the things that you love into your life at a greater speed.

For example, back when I was single, I was very worried and anxious about finding a husband. My fears and endless “what-if’s” were robbing me of the ability to rejoice in all the things I loved. Then I examined the way I was praying for a husband—in a pleading and questioning manner. I realized that the fact that I was begging for marriage showed that deep down in my subconscious I feared it wouldn’t happen or that there was something wrong with me. So, I switched the wording of my prayers to say instead, “I know that at the right time and right place Thou wilt bless me with the husband who is best for me. And for that, I thank Thee in advance.” This change of wording boosted my faith, caused me to rejoice in my marriage before it even happened, and allowed me to have peace and confidence in the meantime—confidence that empowered me to ask my future husband on our first date a few weeks later.

Choosing to have gratitude in advance works with more than just relationships. For example, right now my life is really busy, and as a result, my belongings and living quarters are a lot dustier and more disorganized than I would wish. But rather than beating myself up over the state of the home I love, I close my eyes and think, “I’m grateful in advance for how clean the apartment will be look once I have a little bit of spare time to clean it in the near future.” This thought awakens within me a feeling of rejoicing, and that feeling propels me to seize the chance to clean when the time comes—at a time when I otherwise might have felt too tired.

A powerful example of having gratitude in advance is found in The Book of Mormon. The book tells of a people who lived hundreds of years before Christ was born, and these people taught each other that  . . . whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them” (Mosiah 3:13).

I used to feel sorry for the people who lived before Christ’s birth because I thought, “It must have been so much harder to believe in a Christ who hadn’t come yet instead of believing in a Christ who has already come. Surely it’s easier for me to have faith because I have the advantage of reading the testimonies of the four Gospels and other accounts of those who saw Christ.” But when I think about the principle of having gratitude in advance, I realize that I’m not much different than those people. Whether we lived before Christ’s birth or after Christ’s birth, we still need to learn to rejoice in the things that He has promised us—to rejoice as though they have already happened.

I invite all readers to practice having gratitude in advance and thereby live in a constant state of rejoicing. After all, we have been commanded to rejoice:

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” —Philippians 4:4

(Fun tip: it’s empowering to look up and read all the scriptures that include the word “rejoice.”)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. This was a beautiful post and presents a powerful principle to live by. I need to start incorporating this more complete kind of gratitude in my daily life! Reminds me of Elder Uchtdorf’s talk about being grateful in our circumstances instead of just for what we have. I now understand that I can be grateful in every circumstance if I will just choose to be grateful for promised blessings in advance!

  2. Lance Shipley says:

    Audrey, I love this article! You have such a gift to explain seemingly abstract ideas and make them real in our lives. I also appreciate the Book of Mormon reference to expressing gratitude and joy in advance, as I had never found evidence of it in the scriptures! Thank you for sharing your gift of writing!

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