Faith on the QuadGratitude

One of the things I have observed about college students is how much they seem to complain.  Over the past year, I have noticed both myself and others slipping into a self-centered mindset that is characterized by a general lack of gratitude and tendency to complain about the most trivial matters.  The dangerous part is that students often do not even seem to realize they are doing it.  I think this mentality is caused by the independence and self-absorbed atmosphere that so often accompanies the college experience.  As college students, we need to make an effort to foster humility and gratitude in order to avoid falling into this negative frame of mind.

At home, we have our families.  In order for a family to function correctly, the members must all work together.  No member can be concerned only with his own needs and desires; rather, each member must look at the needs and desires of the whole family in order for things to run smoothly.  Thus, in our families we learn how to compromise and share, we learn how to work together and think of others, we learn how to sacrifice and serve those around us.  The necessity for us to consider the needs of others in addition to ourselves helps fight the vice of selfishness and promote the virtues of humility and gratitude.

In college, many of us find ourselves away from our families, the basic communities in which we learned to serve and work together.  College is a new environment, one that is all about us.  Away from our families, no longer needing to consider their views, we make our own decisions.  We take the classes we choose, eat what we want, study and sleep when we decide, and do what we wish with our free time.  Any clubs, sports, or groups we join are based on our own desires and interests.  Away from our families, which naturally temper our desires through the necessities of service and working together, we are completely free to follow our desires.  There is rarely a need to compromise or sacrifice our wishes.

 In a life that revolves solely around our own wishes and desires, it is easy to forget about others.  We become so focused on ourselves that we are tempted to ignore the needs and desires of those around us.  In this self-centered atmosphere, it is easy to become selfish and to lose sight of the virtues of humility and gratitude.  Rather than being grateful for our many blessings, we start to complain every time things do not turn out perfectly according to our every whim, every time something is the slightest bit unpleasant or uncomfortable.  Rather than being grateful for our food, shelter, and the opportunity for an education, we find ourselves complaining if the food is not cooked just right, if our dorm room is too hot or cold, or if we have too much homework.  Complaining becomes extremely commonplace on college campuses because many students - often without even realizing it - have adopted the selfish attitude that everything in life should work out to please them. 

The solution to this self-centered attitude lies in getting involved in the community, in reaching out in service to one's brothers and sisters in need. There are many opportunities to serve others if one is open to them: visiting a retirement home, volunteering at a soup kitchen, hospital, or day care, teaching Sunday school, helping with a charity event, or working for pro-life causes.  In reaching out to others, we are reminded of their needs, which shift our focus from our own desires and remind us to be grateful for what we have. 

We are reminded that the world does not revolve around us, and that other people do exist, with their own needs, desires, and interests.  Thus we are drawn back to God through service to others.  In this way, our involvement in the community around us brings us back to humility and gratitude.  In addition, practicing works of charity, sacrifice, and self-denial help us keep ourselves in proper perspective.  These efforts to maintain a proper mentality help us to stay focused on God and keep us from spending our college years with a self-centered attitude of constant complaint.

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