To begin with, I’ll be clear; gratitude is good. To be thankful is to be godly, and of course, gratefulness is both virtuous and noble.
So, the problem isn’t with being grateful; the problem is with me.
- Sometimes I’m grumpy rather than grateful because it feels good.
- Sometimes I’m grumpy because it’s easier than being grateful.
- Sometimes I’m grumpy because it gives me an excuse to draw attention to myself when I’m not treated the way I want to be treated.
My grumpiness gives me the pretext to vent, complain, and murmur. And who doesn’t enjoy a good muttering, grumbling, and grouchy complaint from time to time?
Gratitude is much more work because gratefulness is not the natural bent for most of us.
It’s fairly easy to see the negative, and much more challenging to find something beautiful in the midst of unfairness and pain.
It’s not hard to be emotionally nasty when someone treats you poorly.
We would rather point out the one thing someone did wrong than tell them how grateful we are for all they do right.
Perhaps ingratitude is birthed out of our insecurities. We prefer to put others in their place because we think that elevates us above them.
Maybe we’re grumpy because we’ve refused to deal with the log in our eye? Someone once said to me, “If you spot it, you’ve got it.” I didn’t like that comment at the time because what I saw in my co-worker that irritated me so much was what was in my heart. Ouch.
Frequently I’m ungrateful because I’ve chosen to focus on the negative. I tell myself, You’re just being real, but the truth is I’m being a real jerk.
Here are some challenges for you and me if we want to have an attitude of gratitude:
- When something or someone pushes your button, stop and ask yourself why. Why does this irritate me? Why does this seem to make me so mad? Why does this matter?
- If after a little bit of self-evaluation, there truly is a problem and it does matter, try to respond rather than react. Your anger rarely results in something good. How can you speak to the true issue at hand without complicating things through harsh and unkind words? Try to start and end tough conversations with genuine and positive praise.
- When you’re tempted to verbally vomit on someone about someone else, stop and consider what’s in your heart? Am I reacting because of fear? Am I upset because of legitimate injustice or illegitimate insecurity? Am I saying what Jesus would say in or about this situation? (Fair warning, that last one pretty much shuts me up most of the time.)
- Have you learned through practice the value of having a thankful heart? Do you wake up in the morning and say, “God, thank you for another day to serve you and others!” When life hits the fan before noon, can you say, “Jesus, thank You that you can use this to mold me into a better me.” And as you lay your head on your pillow at night, do you whisper, “Lord, I didn’t do everything right today, but I’m grateful that you never give up on me!”
Gratitude is a learned skill that takes practice.
You and I will work on this one until our last breath, but it’s worth the effort. And by the grace and power of Jesus you’ll get there, so don’t give up.
I’ve never met a grateful person I didn’t love, but I’ve met too many ungrateful people I try to avoid. So, be the one people love. Be the one people want to be with more than the one they try to elude.
Be thankful. In fact, right now, find someone and tell that person what you’re grateful for and watch what happens.
Gratitude is only a problem if you let grumpiness rule the day.
So please don’t.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly
as you teach and admonish one another
with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Colossians 3:16 (NIV)