CULTIVATING AND MAINTAINING THE HABIT OF THANKFULNESS (GRATITUDE (PART THREE): HOW TO GIVE THANKS
In this third article of the series centered on the mechanics and necessity of thanksgiving particular attention will be paid to the question,
“How should we give thanks to God and one another? Is thanksgiving an art? How then may it be mastered? How can one learn, maintain and teach others the art of thanksgiving? How may we adults teach our children to make thanksgiving a lifetime habit? Why is it important to know how to give thanks? These questions and others will be explored in this article. The second article on why is it essential to give thanks to God and one another observed the following:
All human beings are encouraged and in fact commanded to give thanks to God in all circumstances and situations because God Almighty is the Source of all that each person is and has. The writer of Psalm 24 puts it accurately: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell therein” (14:1). The basis of all thanksgiving to God is that God is the Owner of us all and we are all mere stewards of his bounty. As stewards we manage what does not belong to us and are therefore accountable to the Owner. Our life and whatever comes with it is given on trusteeship. When we give him thanks in thought, word, and in deed we acknowledge that fact.
We give and ought to give God praise and thanks because we depend on him for every success and blessing of life. Our ingenuity, great planning and industry would amount to nothing if God does not give the rain and sunshine. Where would we be if he does not give health and strength? As Paul the Apostle right confessed: “I plant and Apollos waters but it is God alone who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
It is also our bounding duty to give thanks to one another for the good things we enjoy from one another (advice, guidance, encouragement, practical support that gives real relief in time of need, and the various ways others come alongside us to keep us going on in life). We depend on God and one another for whatever we have and enjoy in life. Ingratitude hurts. Conversely thanksgiving brings joy and warmth to God and the human heart. It ignites and propels the divine spark in each one of us. It begets more desire for goodness in the human thought and motivates for positive actions. We give thanks to express our dependence on God and on one another and this simple art of gratitude geminates goodness in ourselves and in others.
While thanksgiving is essential to the health and wellbeing of individual and communal life, it has to be learnt and maintained by a conscious effort of the will, mind and strength. It is a simple art with profound effects on self and others and yet it is rare and has to be learned. Like most things it is learnt by practice. We show gratitude by saying “thank you” sincerely when anybody is kind to us in many different ways such as giving us food, clothes, a place to stay, direction, advice, school fees, and any kind of support. We should tell God Almighty “thank you” in the morning first thing, in the evening last thing, midday and whenever we remember to do so all through day for all the good as well as the bad things we receive and experience, for being alive and for strength to carry in spite of all problems and obstacles.
We can thank God and other people by being kind to those who need our help desperately. When we seek out those who are in most need and provide care for them we show our gratitude to God whom we do not see physically. But when we are mean and nasty to others then we are ungrateful to God who is most kind to us; for we are returning evil for good. Some people help us and do not need our help in terms of money or other material kind, we return them thanks by giving and caring for those who are less fortunate than us.
Thanksgiving emanates from an attitude and we can pray and fill our hearts and minds with thoughts of thankfulness even amid difficulties and problems in life. One expert, Warren Wiersbe says, “Outlook determines outcome. If we see only the problems, we will be defeated; but if we see the possibilities in the problems, we can have victory.” In other words it is not so much what happens but how one interprets and one can choose to think positively about lots of things including the ugly ones. We can choose to see and acknowledge the good in people and situations which are thought to be unfortunate. We can consciously choose to find reasons to thank God and others even when times and things are tough with us. This will help us get rid of some of the negativity and make us cheerful amid trials and tribulations.
We can also help others, especially those we have influence over (our children and dependents) by setting example and by gently teaching and encouraging them to be grateful to God and others in various situations of life. By learning and keeping the good habit of thankfulness we free ourselves of bitterness, envy, jealously and cultivate a positive attitude of faith, hope and goodwill towards all.