Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with one another and forgive any complaint you may have against someone else. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
–Colossians 3:12-17, Berean Study Bible
True greatness begins right here
The truly great are grateful. If you think you have no one to thank and nothing for which to be thankful you will be resigned to the confines of a small soul. Affluence will be demeaned, influence diminished.
The unthankful may believe themselves great, but actually, they grate on the nerves of those whose lot it is to bring the pomp and circumstance their ego demands.
If gratitude is a key ingredient in greatness and if we aspire to be great, how do we then identify authentic gratitude in ourselves?
I have thoughts on the subject…
#1 – Gratitude is an attitude
“Attitude” is defined as “a settled way of thinking or feeling.”
I grew up in a household where the paterfamilias was committed to attitude adjustments when he felt they were warranted.
“That attitude is going to get you in a world of hurt, son.”
I can still hear him say this today despite my age and his long absence from this life. More than a few times, the Ghost of David Strother and his somehow sternly empathetic tone has been the only thing standing between me and scorched earth.
#2 – Gratitude is an action
Gratitude is more than a state of being; it is a statement of being.
Attitude affects actions. Actions are the effect of attitude. However you feel or think will inform how you act…or fail to act.
It is similar to the argument about whether a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear the fall makes any sound. The answer is it doesn’t matter whether it makes a sound or not. No one heard it. Unexpressed gratitude is just like that. If no one hears it, sees it, or feels it, its existence is debatable and if it does exist, inconsequential.
Do you feel grateful? Act on it. Express it. Live it.
#3 – Gratitude is an ally
Gratitude is the ally of the grateful. It enhances positive experiences and mitigates the damages of negative ones. It strengthens, encourages, and supports the heart to which it belongs.
#4 – Gratitude is an alliance
When you feel grateful to a person or a group, you are apt to make them your tribe, to align yourself with them.
One of my favorite exchanges from one of my favorite movies, Tombstone, is a discussion between Turkey Creek Jack Johnson and Doc Holliday about why Holliday goes through everything he does for Wyatt Earp…
Jack, “Why do you do it?”
Doc, “Wyatt Earp is my friend.”
Jack, “Friend? Hell, I got lots of friends.”
Doc, “I don’t.”
Gratitude impacts the company we keep and the extent to which we will go in support of said company.
#5 – Gratitude is an arbiter
Gratitude can be a potent component in conflict resolution. Whether it is a personal or professional relationship, when you find yourself squared off against someone, reflecting on the thing about that individual for which you have been thankful, the things that brought you together in the first place, can give perspective and perhaps preserve or salvage an alliance, a partnership, or a friendship.
#6 – Gratitude is an auger
Ask any mechanic or carpenter and he (or she) will tell you that the auger is a wonder tool. It will penetrate the seemingly impenetrable.
So will gratitude.
I witnessed this firsthand in my family. My father was at odds with a man he had counted as a friend. He even went so far as to give my kid brother the friend’s name, Earl. (Well, Earl is Don’s middle name, but still.) Dad and his friend Earl were business partners and, as is often the case, business soured the friendship. Earl was prepared to write off Dad completely, to burn every bridge and move on from the friendship. And that is just what he did.
After Dad died, I was talking with Mom about Earl. I was bitter and raw thanks to Dad’s unexpected and premature departure from my world. For a few minutes, I aimed that bitterness at Earl. He had abandoned my father and I did not forgive him for that. I was badmouthing him to Mom because he had not attended the funeral.
Mom said, “Son, your Dad died as Earl’s friend.”
”What do you mean?” I asked incredulously.
”Dad didn’t carry grudges. He couldn’t stand it when a relationship like that went bad. He went to see Earl to tell him how thankful he was they had ever been friends. That ended the feud. They were friends until the end.”
Dad took the auger of gratitude to the petrified soul of a man whose heart was hardened against him and he penetrated it. Out oozed the life-affirming sap of friendship reborn.
#7 – Gratitude is an anchor
The grateful heart will never lose its way.
There will be losses. There will be disappointments. There will be hardships. There will be trouble. The grateful heart may be broken, but it will never be shattered. The grateful person may be discomfited, but will never be abandoned or alone.
However violent the wind and the waves, the anchor of gratitude holds the soul steady and sure. You will never be carried away into the abyss of bitterness. You will never be lost in a sea of confusion. Gratitude anchors the heart.
The great Apostle said, “In everything give thanks.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16
You may not be thankful for everything but you can be thankful in everything. Changing the preposition makes for a whole new – and attainable – proposition.
Sometimes all you can say is something like this: “Lord, I don’t understand it and I don’t like it but I am thankful I can tell you this, and that I can trust you with my rawest emotions. I am thankful I have you to lean on. Be my strength, my courage, and guide.”
Among the greatest of the Americans looms the long shadow of Abraham Lincoln. He presided over the most painful time in our nation’s history, when we were literally at war with ourselves. He signed the Emancipation Proclamation and ended the national blight of slavery forever. Who would deny the greatness of this man?
It was Lincoln who signed the presidential proclamation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Greatness and gratefulness abide together in the same heart.