This month I have attempted to catalog 30 days of gratitude on this cyber-journal. It’s been an interesting exercise in the practice of thanksgiving. As a result of this activity I have been more quickly aware of words that have come out of my mouth which have been negative–and there have been many!
When my kids were small we used to sing a song any time one of us would display an ungrateful spirit:
Are you humbly grateful
Or grumbly hateful?
What’s your attitude?
Do you grumble or groan,
Or let it be known
You’re grateful for all God’s done for you?
These words are emblazoned in my mind and heart to this day. They remind me that each and every day I am faced with the question of whether gratitude will be my attitude of choice.
Recently I had the opportunity to address a group of women on the topic of gratitude. In my research I discovered the article by Michael Zigarelli, Gratitude: Pathway to Permanent Change, published in Issue 17 of the Regent Business Review. In this article Zigarelli poses these questions:
How do I become more like Jesus Christ?
What can I do to develop authentic Christian character—to be patient and kind, to have joy and inner peace, to be gentle, compassionate, self-controlled, and forgiving?
What can I do to truly care about people and to love them as God does?
How can I finally—and permanently—become a better person than I am today?
Zigarelli studied 5000 people around the world who were identified as Christians. A portion of this group were further identified as what he described as “high-virtue Christians.” He defined this group as those who “consistenly displayed ‘fruit of the Spirit’ in their lives.” He set out to discover what it was that made the ‘high virtue’ Christians different from those who would be described as ‘average.’ His findings surprised him. The findings surprised me too. “Of all the possible explanations for why some Christians look more like Jesus than others, one explanation—one characteristic—clearly stood out above the rest: gratitude.” Of course, this does not negate the spiritual practice of prayer and study of God’s Word–but can’t you see how even in these practices gratitude takes them from a duty to a delight? (Very interesting to note that those in the study who exhibited the most gratitude were not those who were the most privileged. The most gratitude was shown by those who would be described as poor!)
Gratitude has been described as the parent of all virtues. Zigarelli’s research certainly affirms this opinion. He concludes that, “gratitude does all this by setting a new thought context for processing our circumstances in life—a context of an abundant life.”
It only makes sense that when I sift everything through the filters of gratitude I see that all of life is a gift from the hand of a loving Creator. The challenge is to learn how to maintain a grateful disposition. The practice of ‘counting my blessings and naming them one by one’ can only help in this process. As I discipline my mind to look at the blessings I have, rather than dwelling on the ‘if only’s’ of life, it only makes sense that contentment and gratitude would be the result.
The research I did on gratitude reminded me of Paul’s challenge in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” I’m convinced that this renewing of the mind on a daily basis is connected to cultivating an attitude of gratitude. And oh, I pray these cyber-pages will continue to exhibit an authentic heart of gratitude.