Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Sorry Christmas! Christmas is an amazing time for so many reasons, but I love how Thanksgiving isn’t about possessions or gifts. Thanksgiving done rightly, allows us to focus on what we already have. It gives us a built-in day for contentment.
We have an awkward relationship with thankfulness as Americans. Amazingly, we’ve turned Black Friday into the biggest shopping day of the year. Businesses, eager to cash in, have continued to move their opening hours earlier. Many shops will open at 6PM on Thursday now. We unapologetically skip over Thanksgiving, leave our families, so we can return to our consumer addictions. In fact, Friday wasn’t enough so now we’ve created Cyber Monday to hold us over for the rest of the year.
However, it’s not just the way we interact with the holiday that reveals our struggle. We’re continually bombarded with stories of the self-made man or woman, who pulled themselves up from their own bootstraps. Once we’ve done something ourselves, under our own power and guidance, it leaves thankfulness by the wayside. Our excuses are many. We call it hard-work. Capitalism. Even God’s blessing. However, many times, we should call our lack of thankfulness what it is, good old fashion greed.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned how thankfulness is one of the keys to life. Giving thanks transforms us in powerful, lasting ways. Ways that far outweigh our consumer habits, complaining, or ungratefulness.
Here’s three to reflect on this holiday season:
1. Give thanks changes our perspective.
Thankfulness by nature takes reflection. It pushes us out of our normal grind to think about the things we’re grateful for. So often, we’re drawn into the constantly seeing the bad in our circumstances, the people around us, and ourselves.
Thankfulness, on the other hand, takes conscious effort and intentionality. We don’t find it without looking; we choose thankfulness. By choosing thankfulness, our perspective changes. We begin to more naturally see the good around us. A new world opens for us to enjoy when we train our eyes for thankfulness rather than complaint.
Furthermore, not only will our perspective change, but our biology will too. This is called epigenetics, if you’re interested in that kind of thing. Thankfulness won’t just make you happier, it could literally save your life by making you less anxious, less depressed, and more content. Complaining does the opposite. It not only makes us hard to get along with, but also changes our biology and perspective to continue noticing the bad and preparing ourselves to see more.
2. Giving thanks improves our relationships.
Thankfulness by nature takes an “other.” When we give thanks it’s tosomeone else. When we take time to reflect on the good someone else has done for us, then thank them, it improves our relationships.
First, thanking someone is a powerful gift. We live in a thankless world, so when you make the effort to give thanks it’s meaningful. People appreciate being noticed. In turn, won’t that deepen your relationship? Won’t it create more trust, love, and grace between you? Furthermore, when we realize all the ways we’ve been given to, it makes us more giving people. Noticing how our friends give to us, makes us desire to give more back. That’s a recipe for relationship improvement.
For example, when I spend time thinking about the ways Holly, my wife, has blessed me, it makes our relationship better. It’s gets me out of thinking about the real or imagined ways she’s not “meeting my expectations.” Instead, I’m grateful, happy, and looking for ways I can meet her needs! Seemingly out of nowhere, I’m a better husband.
3. Giving thanks makes us closer to God.
Thankfulness by nature is about God. It occurred to me the other day, that we don’t just “be thankful,” we give thanks. Thanks is something given. The idea originally comes from giving thanks to God. Thanks is a type of offering or gift we give back to God.
Ultimately, God has given us everything we have. He rules the world and everything in it. Everything we “own” are really just possessions to steward over for a short period. Intentionally giving thanks to God for all the things we’ve received increases faith, promotes closeness, and strengths our hope for the future.
Giving thanks transforms us through the power of humility. It causes us to realize all the people and ways we’ve been helped out. We’re not self-made in anything; we’ve been given everything we now have.
Thankfulness is found in the giving so spend some time giving thanks this week. It will change your life!