May 27, 2011 wlerch
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A Grateful Heart

The definition of gratitude is: “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” 

Many inspirational speakers encourage a person to start a “gratitude journal” and develop a personal practice of taking note daily of things we are grateful for.  Several studies on gratitude suggest that grateful people are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression.  They also have more positive ways of coping with difficult situations in life. “Gratitude and well-being.” Wikipedia.  So gratitude is not only good for the “soul” but also the body, which leads me to wonder – does showing gratitude benefit me more than the person I am expressing it to?  My motivation in expressing gratitude is to impact someone else’s emotional state in an encouraging way, to make them feel appreciated, or helpful.  I do it because I was raised to have good manners; it’s almost automatic (most of the time). 

Writing a gratitude journal sounds like something that would have a positive impact on my life, and at the very least be a FUN thing to do.  Ultimately though, I am challenged to answer the bigger question:  “Am I grateful for the things I feel I deserve?” Is it this type of gratitude that could significantly impact my life?  Change my attitude?  Alter my perspective and focus?  It is easy to be grateful for a gift from a friend, or a surprise blessing, but what about my pay cheque?  Do I put it into the same “gratitude” category as a spontaneous note received from my sister?  Or do I feel because I “earned” it that I don’t need to be grateful? 

1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 says:  “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)  So here I am given CLEAR direction.  “All circumstances” means my gratitude should not be attached to my sense of entitlement.  How humbling is that?  How do I begin to experience this in my daily life?

The word “quality” is used in the above definition of gratitude, and the definition of a quality is: “an attribute or characteristic possessed by someone – it can serve to identify.”  This gives me HOPE, as an attribute is something I can develop.  I can choose to look for and recognize ALL my circumstances, and have an attitude of gratitude.  It is something I can learn, and practice… with practice I should get better at it.  I would love to have an “identity” of gratitude.  I wonder at how phenomenal an impact this would have in my life, in how I feel about God, myself, and others.

I invite you to join me in developing this characteristic.  I intend to start with a lively dinner conversation this evening about gratitude and ask my family to identify things they see in my life that they think I should be grateful for.  I’m going to ask the Lord to reveal to me more and more when my attitude needs to change from one of entitlement to one of gratitude.  And I’m going to practice being grateful in ALL my circumstances.  What will you do?

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jerral  |  May 27, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Hey Soul Sister! I found your message to be quite timely as I found myself facing a refining moment only this morning. I had to choose to be thankful within the trial. I think that gratitude is something that we all need to practice as it certainly does not come naturally or easily. Thank you for being faithful in conveying a message that the Lord laid on your heart.

    Love Jerral

    • 2. wlerch  |  May 27, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      Thanks Jerral – (great picture!!)
      We had a really great chat about gratitude at supper, and decided that we could definitely have an impact on our entire environment by expressing gratitude, so we’re all taking a challenge of expressing gratitude over this next week as an experiment to see what happens. Alex at work, Caleb at school, and I will do it in my various tasks. It will be neat to see what happens!

  • 3. Alex  |  May 30, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Thanks Wendy, I am grateful for you! nice post

    • 4. wlerch  |  May 30, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      I am grateful for you too honey!

  • 5. BR  |  May 30, 2011 at 10:48 am

    A provocative essay – thanks. I have an iphone app that is a little “gratitude” journal – simple to use, that has been parked for a while. You’ve encouraged me to get it into a habit again.

    And another thing. Often when I’m asked what I’m thankful for, I only come up with the obvious big things such as: “my wife, my kids, my babies – which is all true. But what I want is to learn to notice the “little” gifts God gives each day and to first off actually notice – and to express gratitude to Him and whoever else might be around.

    Such as: we have a little song bird most mornings in our backyard somewhere and I’m really grateful for his lovely song. Glad he doesn’t sound like a Goose.

    And another story, when we were in Prague and standing at the subway train ticket dispenser and trying to decipher how to buy a ticket, a couple from New Jersey (english speaking) arrived while we stood there and showed us how to do it right!

    My desire from your comments is to try to notice the little things like that . . . and be grateful.

    • 6. wlerch  |  May 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      Hey dad
      What you have said here is exactly the type of thing I’m talking about. Like when I am tired – does it occur to me to be grateful that I have a comfortable bed to rest in. And when I walk around the block – am I grateful that I have limbs that are strong enough to carry me. That sort of thing. The guys and I had a great conversation about how just saying “have a great day” to people can impact your office, or classroom, and we are going to do an experiment where we see what happens when we express gratitude to the people around us – for ALL the little helps and kindness that they show!
      I am grateful that you and mom live around the corner!

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