Gratitude is the prescription to cure a host of human maladies. One of the chief afflictions of humans is pride. Thanksgiving is the remedy for pride. Here is how it works: whenever we receive a compliment, we should “deflect” the complement to others who helped you. For example, “Thank-you so much for your complement, but without the team behind me at work, this wouldn’t have been possible.” Any recognition that we receive should be a reminder of our own dependence on others as well as opportunity to recognize those who invest in us.
I gave the commencement speech at my high-school graduation. As we were celebrating the lofty achievement of finishing high school, I realized that most of the people attending the graduation were our own families and teachers. Who else would attend? The speech allowed me to communicate that without them there would be no success to celebrate that day, and they, more than us, were the ones who should be recognized for the accomplishment.
The next malady is a lack of perspective. When we get in a bind we often think we are alone in an out of control situation. The instruction from 1 Thes. 5:18 is to “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This shatters the idea that we are alone and reminds us of a powerful and loving Orchestrator of history who is watching every minute. The act of thanksgiving shifts our hearts to recognize this reality.
Another human malady is an elevated need for recognition. In our church this year we are hosting a number of Native Americans from an Indian Reservation. The host families are giving up many freedoms for the cause of investing in the exchange students from the Rez. The families gladly do so (mostly!). However, what a shock it would be to the families if one of the students would just say, “I just want you to know that I see the tremendous sacrifice that you’ve made for me, and I want you to know that I will always be grateful.” Imagine how this would boost to the family’s morale! All the host families are capable of doing their work without recognition; however, recognition makes it easier.
As a supervisor I learned there were two phrases that were impossible to say too much: “Thank-you” and “Good Job!” There is little that will build loyalty in co-workers more than publicly recognizing their contributions to personal or organizational accomplishments.
In order to help me to be immune to these maladies, I keep a list of things that I’m grateful for and refer to it from time to in order to avoid being discontent. Some items are profound like salvation and my wife, some simple like coffee and my iphone.
What’s on your list?