Those two things are envy and expectations.
Envy causes us to see the glass as half-empty instead of half-full. It fills our hearts with jealousy and bitter resentment, so that we begrudge others the good things they enjoy and pity ourselves for not sharing the same fate.
Nothing will blind you to your own blessings more effectively than moping over what you lack, rather than rejoicing over what you have. When you can’t even recognize or acknowledge the good things in your life, then you certainly won’t feel proper appreciation for them.
Expectations can deal as serious a deathblow to gratitude as envy does, for expectations give rise to a sense of entitlement. You can’t sincerely appreciate anything if you think someone owes it to you. It is impossible to feel truly grateful for something when you’re convinced you deserve it.
Expectations have destroyed a lot of marriages, and it’s not difficult to understand why.
Imagine for a moment that it’s your anniversary. Your husband brings you flowers… but you were hoping for diamonds. You’ve been hinting for weeks and had even left a marked catalogue on his desk. Doesn’t he know this is the year for diamonds? He probably just bought these flowers at the grocery store on his way home from work. What a slacker! Can’t he ever plan ahead? Why are special occasions always an afterthought with him?
Before long, you’re really miffed. Your husband can see this in your eyes, sense it in your tone of voice—and it stings. He does something nice for you, and this is how you react? Whatever happened to a simple thank you? Why does he even bother trying? He stews until he’s boiling, then spends your wedding anniversary sleeping on the couch.
Life doesn’t have to be like this.
Let’s try that scenario again, but this time when your husband brings home flowers, you are delighted. He’s been so busy at work lately, you’re surprised he remembered your anniversary at all. What a sweetheart! You hug his neck, give him a long kiss, and thank him profusely. You arrange the bouquet in water, set it on the table, and stop to admire it every time you pass. Your husband sees you do this and smiles with pleasure. You comment on how beautiful the flowers look, how wonderful they smell, and how blessed you are to be married to such a sweet and thoughtful guy— not just tonight, but repeatedly throughout the week.
The question is, which wife will you choose to be? Which would your husband rather come home to?
Do you want joy? Then rid yourself of envy and expectations and any notions of entitlement.
Do you want to live happily ever after? Then cultivate a heart filled with gratitude — first to God, from whom all blessings flow, but also toward the people He has placed in your life. People whose kindnesses, whether great or small, should never be taken for granted.