Thanksgiving ushers in the holiday season.Tantalizing aromas, gala events, and clandestine shopping trips consume much of our time from late November to January 1. Easily caught up in the activities of the holiday season, it is easy to neglect the most important present to offer others—the gift of gratitude.
Before the gift of gratitude is unwrapped, may I encourage you to spend some time responding to the “Gratitude Gauge”? It is designed to help diagnose your attitude toward gratitude. The “Gratitude Gauge Interpretation” is located at the conclusion of this post.
Record the number that best reflects your response to each statement. You may wish to print the Gratitude Gauge to record your score as well as for further study. Use the following scale:
5 = regularly 2 = seldom
4 = usually 1 = very seldom
3 = sometimes 0 = never
- I quickly acknowledge that expressing gratitude is a biblical instruction.
- I recognize that a complaining spirit is symptomatic of the fact that I lack a grateful heart.
- I understand that cultivating a grateful heart is a life-long process.
- I believe that the condition of my spiritual heart determines my spiritual health.
- I am increasing in my knowledge of the Word of God.
- I thank my heavenly Father for my spiritual blessings.
- I thank my heavenly Father for my material blessings.
- I thank my heavenly Father for my joyful experiences.
- I thank my heavenly Father for my difficult experiences.
- I offer thanks to others when they extend kindness to me.
- I seek to speak encouraging words to others.
- I quickly acknowledge that sincere gratitude enriches my life.
- I am seeking seek to serve others.
- I maintain contact with missionaries and seek to share some of their burdens.
- I understand that giving thanks is generated from my will.
- I am aware that being thankful is generated from my emotions.
- I "pause for praise" throughout the day.
- Others affirm my grateful spirit.
- I acknowledge that how I respond to the biblical instruction about expressing gratitude affects my spiritual health.
- I am like the one leper described in Luke 17:15-16 who returned to thank the Lord for healing him.
Gratitude Gauge Total =
Unwrapping the Gift of Gratitude
The English word gratitude is derived from the same word that gives us grace. Do you know that gratitude and grace are Siamese twins? Since Christians daily experience the grace of God, and if they look for ways to acknowledge that it is at work in their lives and the lives of others, then they have many reasons to express gratitude. However, many complain more frequently than they express gratitude—and they don't realize what devastating effects their complaining has on their spiritual lives. Though they may temporarily feel better emotionally for transferring their negative thoughts to others, the spiritual toll that the emotional release renders is often devastating.
The impact of a negative, complaining spirit is significant, as the following example illustrates. A part of my advising responsibilities when I was a faculty member at The Master’s College included the completion of a “Senior Contract” for each of my advisees anticipating graduation. Since the task is time-consuming, I eagerly agreed to be a part of the piloting of an online version of the “Senior Contract.” It was an incredible experience! I quickly e-mailed the programmer and expressed my gratitude for his work on the project. His response brought tears to my eyes—“Thanks for your kind words. I usually only hear from people if they have a complaint!” I was again reminded that the best antidote for a complaining spirit is an attitude of gratitude, and that is something that must be cultivated daily.
The Gratitude Cycle
Did you know that true gratitude expands your ministry opportunities? Consider the “Gratitude Cycle”:
- The more thankful we are, the more we are aware of our many blessings.
- If we only offer praise and thanksgiving when things go our way, we develop tunnel vision.
- If we are grateful for all that our heavenly Father brings into our life, then our horizons expand.
- When our horizons expand, our ability to sincerely offer praise, regardless of the circumstances, increases!
I can speak with conviction about the validity of the “Gratitude Cycle.” Many circumstances in my life (abandonment as an infant, orphaned by adoptive parents in my early twenties, being single, to name a few) initially appear as insurmountable obstacles. However, as I choose to believe that my Lord is a sun and shield; that He gives grace and glory; and that there is no good thing that He will withhold from me if I am walking uprightly (Psalm 84:11), I realize that all I need to do is take care of the walking uprightly part (that includes being grateful for all things), and He does the rest! Looking in retrospect at the seemingly devastating circumstances, I can now see how my loving heavenly Father used each as a vehicle to shape my character and to enhance my ministry to others.
An Attitude of Gratitude Makes Our Lives a Beatitude
True praise is an enriching experience. It was so with David. As you read his Psalms of praise, you find him thanking God for things in heaven and things on earth. For material blessings and spiritual blessings. For joyful experiences as well as difficult experiences. The challenges David experienced enriched his life because he knew how to praise the Lord. Consider his words . . .
- "Thou hast enlarged my steps under me” (Psalm 4:1).
- "Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip" (Psalm 18:36).
When difficulties befall us, they only become a liability when we complain. However, if we choose to praise God, those same difficulties will allow our lives to become a Beatitude.
An increase in the frequency of praise and thanksgiving is evidence that an attitude of gratitude functions in our lives. When we choose to expand our praise life, expressing gratitude to both our heavenly Father and those who enrich our earthly existence is a reflex response. As we experience this response we can then say like David, "He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because he delighted in me" (Psalm 18:19).
Some Thoughts to Ponder
- Giving thanks is generated from the Will.
- Being Thankful is generated from the Emotions.
- The Psalms are written to the Will, not the Emotions.
- If I am unwilling to extend gratitude to those I can see, it is highly unlikely that I will thank my heavenly Father whom I cannot see.
Diagnosing and Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude
So, as the holiday season approaches, are you excited about giving the gift of gratitude? Your results on the Gratitude Gauge you completed as you began to read this article will help you respond to the question. Use the Gratitude Gauge Scale to interpret it.
Gratitude Gauge Scale
100-90 - a maturing attitude of gratitude
89-80 - a commitment to an attitude of gratitude
79-70 – an understanding of what constitutes an attitude of gratitude
69-60 – a minimal commitment to an attitude of gratitude
59- 0 – an attitude adjustment is needed
Now that your attitude toward gratitude is diagnosed, consider completing this project designed to help you to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude. I believe that as you conclude it you will find that you have many gifts of gratitude to distribute. The impact on your bank account—nothing. The blessings bestowed on others—immeasurable!
- Simple things I thankful for:
- Specific people I am thankful for:
- Write a note of gratitude to at least five of the names you listed. Place a check mark by their names when the notes have been sent.
- My reaction to Expressing Gratitude:
- Evaluate your Gratitude Gauge Score.
- Use the verses that follow to develop principles for increasing your Gratitude Gauge Score. I provided an example for you.
- Psalm 18:49—I will choose to give thanks to God and sing praises to His name.
- Psalm 103:3-5
- Romans 1:21
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18
- 1 Corinthians 15:57
- 1 Timothy 4:4
As you contemplate your gift list this holiday season, will you place Gratitude at the top? As my friend Nancy DeMoss suggests, gratefulness carries with it the attending blessings and beauty of holiness.” [i]
[i] Nancy DeMoss, The Quiet Place (Chicago: Moody: 2012), “Well Received,” November 6 selection.