Life’s Most Underrated Virtue

November 27, 2013 — Leave a comment

teach-me-to-be-thankful

I have a confession to make.  I like to have the best and only the best. Royers Café in Round Top is known for their wonderful pies. And when I walked in my fist question was:  What’s the best pie on your menu?

Interestingly enough, my desire to have the best and only the best sometimes wages war on my ability to express thanksgiving.  How about you?  Because I think for people who love excellence, for people who love to see the best and experience the best, sometimes it’s a little harder to balance that drive with appreciation for what is.  How do I handle it when I don’t experience “the best” and I must deal with a “less than ideal” scenario?

I’ve read numerous times that the two healthiest emotions are generosity and gratitude.  Not so long ago famous people all over the world were polled by a magazine which asked them the question, “if you could be granted one wish that will come true right now, what would that be?” There were some very interesting responses but the one that raised many an eyebrow was this:  “I wish that I could be given an even greater ability to appreciate all that I already have.”  What an interesting and compelling wish, don’t you think?

What do you think would happen if each one of us chose to be a more thankful person? I believe that life’s most underrated skill is gratitude. It’s not flashy. It’s not the red sports car of virtues.  But think about it. The alternative to gratitude is a heart that is chronically discontent and dissatisfied and that’s a really scary place to be.

An attitude of gratitude isn’t just another character quality that would be “nice to have” if you ever get around to it. To the contrary, gratitude and the expression of gratitude is absolutely essential to your spiritual life, absolutely essential to your mental health, and it’s absolutely essential to your relationships.

Let me state the obvious:  Gratitude can only be experienced in imperfect conditions.  In this world, the only gifts you will ever receive are imperfect gifts. If I wait for perfect gifts, I will never be grateful at all. I must learn to be grateful for imperfect people, churches, communities, families, etc., because those imperfect gifts are the only ones that I am going to get in this world.

Thanksgiving is not a very exotic or shiny virtue.  It may be life’s most underrated virtue.  But there is a reason God tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  And there is a reason the church comes together each week to share the Eucharist – a “thank-you meal” in honor of Christ’s atoning work for us.  Gratitude changes our hearts for the better by paying attention to God’s manifold kindnesses and gratitude creates an atmosphere where is God welcomed to show up and do His work.

I realize that we live in a culture of entitlement where it’s cool to be cynical and critical, but that’s not what our great God wants for you. His grand purpose is to beautify our spirits so that we can shine like stars in an often ungrateful world.  You really do have plenty reasons to praise God today.  I suggest you find one or two and say “thank-you” until you feel it resonate in your spirit.

There’s a phrase repeated in Scripture more often than any other and here it is:  “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever.”

Psalm 103:2  Praise the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget his benefits.

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