Gratitude isn’t just the act of saying thank you. It’s a posture. It’s an “others first” way of thinking where showing appreciation and returning kindness is automatic. We’ve all met people like that. They’re genuine and they pull you in. You want to be around them. That’s gratitude.
The Apostle Paul had that posture. And it was rooted in a relationship with Jesus.
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
His contentment, his gratitude came from knowing that Jesus gave him power and, despite his circumstances, he had the strength he needed to persevere.
How do we practice gratitude?
Don’t let gratitude be a thing you do for a holiday or the month of November. Allow it to be a part of your life. Like Paul said, it starts with a connection with Jesus. He will give you the ability to truly put others first. If you’re a parent, you have experience with this. But sometimes we put others first with a stinky attitude. Begrudging selflessness isn’t really selfless.
Gratitude requires a release. We must allow grudges and bitterness to fall away in order to experience true gratitude. Think of it as the difference between clenched fists and open hands and arms stretched wide. We can’t live a life of gratitude if we’re using our energy to hold on to old battles. Do yourself a favor and forgive. If you’re not ready to do it for them, do it for yourself. You deserve a life free from those burdens. Jesus wants so badly to take the weight of that bitterness away. Just. Let. Go.
You can practice gratitude anywhere. When someone hands you food at a restaurant, look them in the eye and say, “Thank you”. This seems so obvious, but have you ever noticed when we’re busy, people become invisible? They do. Add the barrier of a mask, and we can go through our day without actually connecting with anyone.
Take the time to truly see people. My husband laughs at me because I’ll chat with someone at the BMV and end up knowing more about them then he does his closest friends. My openness to connect with strangers has lead me into some wonderful encounters. I credit a brief stint working in retail for this ability. We were told to look every customer in the eye and make a connection with them. Before that, I was too shy to do that. But you know what? Once that was a habit, it made me a better teacher, a better listener, and a better friend. I started to make connections everywhere I went. And those connections gave me gratitude. I began to see the world through others’ eyes instead of my own. And over time, my hands were open instead of clenched.
In order to live a life of gratitude, we must take stock of our blessings. Although, gratitude isn't something that's unique to November, I do love the trend of coming up with something your thankful for every day of the month. That awareness grows us into people who are marked by gratitude.
Being thankful and extending kindness will make you a happier person. You won’t sweat the small stuff as much. People will be drawn to you. You will hear a lot of stories. You will be blessed. And those blessings can start today.