“Blow, blow thou winter wind, thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.” The past several years, our winters here in the Northeast have been particularly harsh.
In the midst of those long, cold, snowy winter days, Shakespeare’s words take on a whole new meaning. That winter wind is nasty. Yet, Shakespeare suggests, its bitter bite is not as wicked as man’s ingratitude.
Ingratitude, it seems, has been a problem for people forever—rearing its ugly head long before Shakespeare penned those famous words.
I would submit that an underlying temptation towards ingratitude was one of the reasons for Adam and Eve’s fall. If they had been truly grateful for all the Lord had blessed them with, they would not have sought after the one thing that they couldn’t have. Their ingratitude fueled their pride which ultimately caused them to succumb to the temptation of the devil.
In Luke’s Gospel, we read the story of the ten lepers who were cleansed by Jesus and find that only one returns to thank Him for his healing. Jesus’ response to the one leper who returned to thank Him was, “Stand up and go. Your faith has saved you.” (Luke 17: 11-19)
Here we see another connection—this time between faith and gratitude. It was that one leper’s faith and humility that compelled him to return with gratitude. Through his faith, he was able to acknowledge Jesus’ power to heal him and thank and praise Him for it.
Gratitude is more than simply saying “Thank you.”
It is an attitude by which we recognize that we are not capable of self-sufficiency—that we cannot provide for ourselves everything that we need or desire.
When we show our gratitude to God, we are responding to Him in faith. In gratitude, we acknowledge that He is the creator and we are His creatures—dependent upon Him for our very existence.
In expressing gratitude to other people, we also grant that they have given to us something that we did not already possess. Gratitude demands humility on our part, and growing in gratitude is essential for overcoming our own pride.
The month of November and the celebration of Thanksgiving offers us an opportunity to take stock of our lives and examine how well (or poorly) we are practicing gratitude.
I’d like to offer five ideas for growing in gratitude:
1. Begin the day with gratitude.
Before your feet hit the floor (or before you grab your iPhone off the nightstand) thank the Lord for the gift of a new day and for all the ways He will bless you in that day ahead.
The simple act of acknowledging God’s goodness before you perform any other activity of the day sets a tone of gratitude for the entire day ahead
2. Pray the Psalms.
The Psalms are beautiful prayers of praise, thanksgiving, lamentation, wonder and awe over who God is and what He has done. Even those Psalms that are not specifically Psalms of thanksgiving can inspire an attitude of gratitude.
You can simply begin praying one Psalm a day or, if you are so moved, pray the Liturgy of the Hours which incorporates several Psalms at each hour. (My favorites are Psalm 40 and 139.)
3. Pray grace before you begin any new activity.
We very routinely pray grace before meals, but praying a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving to God before beginning any new activity is a way to grow in awareness of God’s providential care and the practice of gratitude.
G.K. Chesterton says,
“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
4. End the day with a gratitude journal.
Designate a notebook or journal to be used as your gratitude journal. At the end of each day, write a list of at least two things that you are grateful for that day. Some days it may be difficult to find even one thing to be grateful for.
On days like this, thank God that you lived to see another day. On other days you may fill pages. This journal will be a source of encouragement for years to come.
5. Write a “thank you” note.
That’s right—a handwritten, pen and paper, put a stamp on it, genuine old-fashioned thank you note. Better yet, write several. Develop a habit of writing thank you notes when someone has done something for you, however small.
Try and be as specific as possible in your note about what you are thanking the person for and what impact it has had on your life. Remember, gratitude takes humility, and at first, these notes may seem awkward and challenging to write.
However, if you persist, not only will you grow in gratitude, but the persons receiving your notes will be blessed and encouraged as well.
All of these activities can be something that you can do either individually or together as a family. Even the youngest children can participate in these activities, and laying the foundation of a grateful heart early will lead to a fully blossomed attitude of gratitude later in life.
Permit me to put into practice one of my suggestions and say to you readers: Thank you for reading! It brings great joy to a writer’s heart to know that our words have been inspirational or encouraging to someone, and I am deeply grateful to you for reading.
In the spirit of the season, share with me one thing you’re grateful for. Where, or who, or what is it?
Have you tried any of these suggestions?