It was sacrifice enough for Brad Morris to travel all the way from Texas to attend his friends' wedding in Las Vegas. (After all, they weren't old schoolmates of his, simply coworkers he'd gotten to know and like.) Add to that the generosity of sending them off with the open-ended gift of a crisp, new $100 bill. Sure, it wasn't a five-piece setting or a stem of their chosen crystal, but for a bachelor trying to honor the happy couple with his best wishes on their future marriage—I don't think Miss Manners would harrumph too loudly at that.
So you can't help but sympathize with his sentiments when, about a month later, an email arrived in his inbox with the catch-all opening line: "Dear Friends." The senders of this cyber-message went on for a brief moment, thanking the whole lot of them for attending their recent wedding.
Oh! And, by the way, "Thanks for all the nice gifts."
"Cheap and pitiful" is how Brad described his friends' ten-minute attempt at getting gratitude off their to-do list. "I would just as soon have received no thank-you as to receive that."
The Trend of Gratitude
But this is all part of a downhill trend reported in an article in USA Today, which pointed out that sincere and thoughtful thank-you notes are increasingly being replaced by (if anything at all) an email that amounts to a mere confirmation of receipt.
For some this may stem back to their childhood, when their parents sat them down after Christmas and birthdays and gave them a grid to work with:
"Dear (blank). Thank you for the (blank). I love it! Signed, (blank)."
How grateful are you to God when no one else is looking?
Nobody honestly believed the thanks was all that genuine; it was just a matter of "good manners." When they became adults—old enough to decide for themselves whether they wanted to keep up this charade—many of them saw no purpose in continuing something that had so little meaning.
Given the general level of disinterest in old-fashion note writing today, it's no wonder that some now feel that a pecked-out email is going above and beyond.
More Than a Checklist
But gratitude is much more than checking a list or completing a transaction. We've read our Bibles enough to know that God is not pleased with technical, bare-bone attempts at obedience. We cannot expect true blessing for merely fulfilling a duty-bound sense of obligation. God's desire is not just to see us doing grateful things but to see us doing grateful things out of the overflow of a truly grateful heart.
It's time to get to the heart of gratitude, to let it become more than the perfunctory note writing we may have learned as kids. Here are a few ways you can show genuine gratitude.
- Speak up. Gratitude is not the quiet game. It begs to be expressed, both to God and to others (Ps. 145). "Silent gratitude," Gladys Berthe Stern said, "isn't much use to anyone."
- Sing out. Another frequent theme of thanksgiving found in Scripture is its musical side (Ps. 28:7, Ps. 147:7). There's something about singing our thanks, not just talking it, that imbeds gratitude even more deeply into our souls. And remember, it doesn't have to sound good to be good.
- Kneel down. Think about the overall make up of your prayers. Are they out-of-balance in favor of asking and seeking? Prayer is more than asking. It is a vehicle of worship and gratitude (1 Tim. 2:1).
- Privately and publicly. For gratitude to become a true joy-maker in our hearts, it must be expressed everywhere, at every opportunity, both privately before God and publicly before others. How grateful are you to God when no one else is looking?
It shouldn't take a special occasion for gratitude to spring up from deep within, as though it needs a grand stage on which to make its appearance. The Scripture calls us to all-day, everyday gratitude:
- Morning and evening. David instructed the Levites "to stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening" (1 Chron. 23:30).
- Three times a day. Daniel came before God at morning, noon, and night, setting aside specific times of day to give thanks for His goodness and faithfulness.
- The middle of the night. "At midnight I rise to praise you," the psalmist wrote (Ps. 119:62). Moments of wakefulness through the night are calls to be mindful of the Lord, thanking Him again as we settle back to sleep on a soft bed of gratitude.
- Continually. "I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be continually in my mouth" (Ps. 34:1). At every conscious thought of God's blessing, our automatic reflex should be—and really can be—instant gratitude.
And why not? After all, as David said, "I will give thanks to you forever" (Ps. 30:12). So gratitude should be an every-moment, every-hour, everyday, lifetime event. Will we ever run out of things to be thankful for? Not a chance!
Editor's Note: This blog was adapted from Nancy's book Choosing Gratitude.