noun- the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
I wonder how many times a day we say “thank you.” Someone hands us something, we say, “thank you.” Someone does something we’ve asked, we say “thank you.” Someone holds the door open for us, we say “thank you.” In many ways, saying “thank you” has become an automated response. Words that have been modeled and encouraged, and engrained in us by our parents and teachers. These two little, socially acceptable words seem to roll off our tongue without much thought to the weight they carry.
In English, “thank you” derives from “think,” it originally meant, “I will remember what you did for me” but in other languages (the Portuguese obrigado is a good example) the standard term follows the form of the English “much obliged” — it actually means “I am in your debt.” ¹ This brings to mind a formality and sincerity that my daily flippant use of the phrase is lacking.
Maybe, we should start thinking of our “thank yous” in a more meaningful way. Yes, please do continue using polite “thank yous” in public social exchanges but in our private, heart spaces, maybe we should start to explore the deeper meaning of thankfulness and why practicing gratitude is so important.
This may mean slowing down a bit and recognizing some things. It means acknowledging, with great sincerity, the “whos” and “whats” in our life that make us better people. It means remembering the people who we may have taken for granted or haven’t taken the time to tell them how much they mean to us. It may mean forgiveness and grace. It may mean thinking differently about the difficult situations in our life. The ones that seem to have no end, and may mean acknowledging that even through those situations we are learning, growing, and God can use them for good things. It may mean the realization of a lack of something, something more to grasp, but what that something is, you are not quite sure. All of this is good exploration and great discoveries can come from it.
Gratitude is more than a choice. It’s is a discipline. A discipline that needs to be developed and practiced through every situation. Exploring and cultivating gratitude brings about a grateful heart. A grateful heart produces joy and joy can carry us through life and all life has to bring.
Gratitude does not necessarily come easy though. Exploring and cultivating gratitude requires dedication. It can be difficult work that requires effort and the ability to think beyond ourselves and our current circumstances. (Ever notice how much easier it is to be thankful when things are going good.). But the results of your work, and the joy it will brings, far outweighs the difficulty of the practice.
I am dedicating the rest of November to explore, discuss, and write about gratitude here on my blog and on my Facebook page. I would love for you to join me in your own exploration of gratitude.
Here’s some questions to get you started:
1.) When you think of “thank yous” and gratitude, what do you think about? Proper etiquette, emotions, attitudes, a choice?
2.) What does gratitude look like in your own life?
3.) Does thankfulness boil down to polite manners and ethically-correct responses, or is it something that you work on and through to bring joy and strength?
4.) How can you practice true gratitude in your daily life?
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks for everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
And One more thing, it’s not too late to join November’s Gratitude Letter Challenge. You can find more here: Letters of Gratitude- A Challenge for the Month of November