As we approach the National Day of Thanksgiving it is appropriate to examine our attitude. Is it one of thankfulness or do we suffer from the common sin of ingratitude?
A young boy was given an orange by a man. The boy's mother asked, "What do you say to the nice man?" The little boy thought and handed the orange back and said, "Peel it." Is that the way we think and act?
Cultivating an "attitude of gratitude" is a good thing. Research has shown that gratitude is associated with lower levels of depression, envy, delinquency and higher levels of academic performance, life satisfaction, self-esteem, hope and happiness.
A recent study also shows that feeling grateful makes people less likely to turn aggressive when provoked. "Gratitude is more than just feeling good," says Nathan DeWall, who conducted a study in Kentucky. "It helps people become less aggressive by enhancing their empathy. It is an equal-opportunity emotion. Anyone can experience it and benefit from it."
It is so easy to take the blessings of life for granted. My wife and I both grew up in Mobile, Alabama. In a recent visit we drove around the area and marveled at the beauty of the giant oak trees, the fertile farm lands, and the expansive skies. I don't remember recognizing that beauty when I lived there. I suspect that I fail to recognize and appreciate much of God's marvelous creation in Atlanta and the north Georgia region where I now live because I have become so accustomed to it.
In the online website http://www.anepiceducation.com the writer remembers how "it took a surprise (40th) birthday party... to ... help me realize just how fortunate my dumb little life on this planet had been so far. Until then, I had only looked at what I thought I lacked or was losing (money, excitement, youth), and not at what I already had and was gaining (good friends, health, wisdom). It was a real turning point for me, and one that I wasn't expecting. Suddenly, birthdays were celebrations again - no fanfare or grand parties, but truly happy days. They no longer represented the march to banality and death, but became a moment to reflect on how much I had to be grateful for."
That reflection is of special interest to me because the author is my son. His insights demonstrate the kind of thankfulness that I am suggesting is beneficial for us and others around us.
The Bible admonishes us to "Give thanks in every situation because this (thankful spirit) is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (I Thess. 5:18). Everything that happens to us is not God's will but an attitude of gratitude is what God desires and expects from us in all circumstances.