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Stephen Colbert on Gratitude in Suffering

GQ magazine's interview with talk show host Stephen Colbert explored how he found gratitude in the midst of suffering ("The Late, Great Stephen Colbert.") When he was 10 years old, his father and two of his brothers, were killed in a plane crash. Young Stephen was the only child still at home with his mother in the years immediately following. When asked how he could experience such losses and not become angry or bitter, the GQ interview explored Colbert's faith:

[Colbert said], "I was raised in a Catholic tradition … That's my context for my existence, is that I am here to know God, love God, serve God, that we might be happy with each other in this world and with him in the next—the catechism. That makes a lot of sense to me. I got that from my mom. And my dad. And my siblings."
"I was left alone a lot after Dad and the boys died. … And it was just me and Mom for a long time," he said. "And by her example I am not bitter … She was … broken, yes. Bitter, no." Colbert said that even in his mother's days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity.
Colbert described a letter from J.R.R. Tolkien who wrote, "What punishments of God are not gifts?" Colbert's eyes filled with tears as he said, "So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn't mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head." He was 35, he said, before he could really feel the truth of that. He was walking down the street, and it "stopped me dead. I went, 'Oh, I'm grateful. Oh, I feel terrible.' I felt so guilty to be grateful. But I knew it was true."

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