December 24, 2018 | David F. Coppedge

Give Gratitude for Christmas

Your holiday gift giving should include gratitude above all. It helps both giver and receiver. And it is right.

Scientists continue to support the value of awe and gratitude, but they miss the point. Gratefulness is not an end in itself. It is not for “me.” It presupposes a recipient who is worthy to receive it. To be sure, a grateful person will enjoy life more, but true thankfulness requires getting one’s eyes off of self and being humble, offering thanks whether or not it makes you feel good.

Cheers! Saying thanks is good for you and those around you (New Scientist). This article is practically worthless. It’s all about self. Writer Susana Martinez-Conde even postulates that gratitude evolved: “gratitude plays a strong, probably evolved, role in our social bonds and networks.” Probably? Even she is not sure about that. But she does agree that “saying thanks could be the best gift you can give, to yourself and others.” You can give a bratty kid the most expensive toy in the store and he or she may still throw a tantrum. If you teach your children gratitude, though, they will have an internal fountain of riches the rest of their lives, even if monetarily poor — and, they will be a joy to those around them.

When you’re grateful, your brain becomes more charitable (The Conversation). This piece by psychologist Christina Karns is a little better, avoiding the notion that gratitude evolved, but again it focuses on self – what gratitude does to you. She presents MRI evidence that gratitude wakes up the altruistic part of our brains, and concludes, “So in terms of the brain’s reward response, it really can be true that giving is better than receiving.” But notice: this is a selfish statement, too: the brain rewards the grateful person with good feelings.

Chuck Norris highlights health benefits of gratitude (WND). The martial arts TV star is now a health advisor, which has certainly worked for him, whose amazing fitness continues into his senior years. As a Christian now, he also knows Who deserves our gratitude. He found Christina Karns’ article and agrees with it, saying in conclusion, “Looks like the Bible had it right. It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Even so, the focus is on the “health benefits” to the grateful person, not on the worthiness of person to whom we should be grateful.

Unquestionably, the grateful person will be a happier person. Look how many social problems could be alleviated with this simple character trait! Here are just a dozen, and this list is not exhaustive:

  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be angry.
  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be depressed.
  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be selfish.
  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be fearful.
  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be anxious.
  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be suicidal.
  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be stingy.
  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be picky or persnickety.
  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be proud and boastful.
  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be demanding.
  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be a protestor.
  • When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be a social boor.

Gratitude won’t cure some things, like laziness, but it is a shortcut to a much higher sense of well-being. The people around you are likely to be as blessed as you are. Gratefulness is also contagious; when you thank someone, they will likely thank you back.

Remember, though, that if you try to be grateful just because of what it might do for you, you are just play acting. That’s not real gratitude. Start by getting your eyes off yourself and your problems. Who do you think you are, anyway? Do you think you deserve lucky breaks and good health all the time? Everything you have is a gift. Even if you have a health problem, probably over 99.9% of your body is working just fine. Are you grateful about that?

When you have reached the end of yourself, practice gratitude to your Maker, because He deserves more gratitude than we can possibly express. In heaven, the redeemed will sing, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11). Equally worthy is the babe in the manger, the Lord Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world by his crucifixion and resurrection, and will reign forever over all things. The host of heaven will sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).

Even with your prayer requests, you can express them in a grateful way. After giving copious thanks, you can insert, “Oh, by the way, Lord, I do have a little problem with cancer. But I’m exciting about what you are going to do to display Your glory in my little trial. Thank you in advance!” Practice true gratitude for your Maker and Savior first. It is not just good for you, it is right. He is worthy. If you learn gratitude to the most worthy Being of all, gratitude will become a natural response to all the blessings in life.

Exercises: Study all the instances of thanksgiving and gratitude in the Bible. Teach your family the duty of gratitude. Show it by example, and let the joy of gratitude beam from your heart in your daily habits.

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