The Power and Simplicity of Gratitude

Gratitude is All the Rage

It’s impossible to be on Facebook and not be aware that folks are trying to post one thing a day that they are thankful for. It’s November. The month of Thanksgiving. So let’s practice gratitude for a month. Sounds simple and easy, but as with all things simple, if we drill down enough, it ain’t easy.

My entries for the day

Right now I’m sitting in a slightly chilly courtyard at my church having an hour or so of quiet. I’m thankful for this hour.

This morning, one of my sons and I had some time together while he worked out a “difficult” attitude. I sat with him through his frustration until he came out of it on the other side. I was thankful for that – both that he came out of it and for what, if I say so myself, was a supernatural display of patience.

If I didn’t sit down to write this post, I wouldn’t have thought to be thankful for either of the above.

I Dislike Gratitude Lists. It’s True.

By the end of this section, I’ll probably get a little schmaltzy. But I’ll start with a little confession.

Anytime I’ve been encouraged to create ‘gratitude lists’ to counteract some character defect I’m struggling with, I develop the character defect of being easily annoyed by the person who made the suggestion.

I don’t love the idea of sitting and thinking about things to be thankful for. I’m not sure why, but it’s like eating healthy food. You know you’ll feel better if you do, but it’s hard to make yourself do it.

And when I finally sit down and make a list, I’m surprised.

The list never looks like what I think it would. Baby back ribs and beer are never on it.

The items on the list often fall into four categories:

  1. People in my life I’m thankful for
  2. Lessons learned because of difficulties because of circumstances or actions of others beyond my control.
  3. Lessons learned because of my own stupidity.
  4. Blessings that are in my life, often and usually undeserved: (Baby back ribs would go here if they showed up anywhere)

All of it by the grace of God.

Where’s the simplicity, then… and the power?

So the simplicity lies in this: there is nothing that has happened to me or that I’ve done that can’t, somehow, over time, be leveraged as a gift.

The tough part is that many of the same things can be leveraged destructively too.

Gratitude at its finest takes what could be understandably used and leveraged for guilt, shame, regret, or bitterness and repurposes it.

That’s the beauty of gratitude. It’s a filter. It creates gifts where we didn’t notice gifts before.

So enjoy your November and be encouraged in daily thankfulness. May we all uncover some new, powerful gifts.

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