Have You Said Thank You Today?
I just received a new book yesterday. It’s “The Algebra of Happiness” by Scott Galloway. Before I read any non-fiction book, I usually scan the table of contents or the index to get an idea of how it’s structured and what topics are covered. His book is short so it has a simple structure.
One of the topics I saw in the index was gratitude. My immediate response was that it made sense. There is plenty of research confirming that thankful people are happier than non-thankful people. This seems simple and straight forward enough, but it’s not automatic. Thankfulness is as much a learned behavior as a natural response to life.
Anger, bitterness, and a host of other emotions can derail us and often are more powerful emotions than gratitude. Some folks have become conditioned to see the negative in life. There are a variety of reasons, but constant disappointment and abuse have a powerful way of wiring a person’s automatic responses. It’s safer to adopt a stance of defensiveness or aggression than it is to be trusting. Sometimes living in an environment of negativity will seal us off to feeling genuine gratitude.
But that can be changed. As a pastor who has been responsible for more worship services than I can count, or care to count, I know that a very important part of any worship service is to plan for a time of giving thanks. As a follower of Jesus, just knowing in Whose hands my life is held is enough to make me be thankful, but I need to be reminded and given the opportunity.
One effective tool is making a list. Ask what or who you are thankful for today. If you aren't flooded with examples, name some people close to you and then list the ways you are thankful to have them in your life. Try it. This will open your eyes. Once they are open think of what you are going to do to thank them for being there.
Scott Galloway says he is 100% certain there is no God, but in spite of that, says he prays. (p.216) What he means by praying is quite different from what I mean by it, but he acknowledges that gratitude needs to be spoken out. Who is listening is another matter. He also says this to which I would say amen: “Nobody ever says at a funeral, he was too generous, too kind, and much too loving. Nobody, ever.” (p.216)
And acknowledging your creator with a simple, thank you, changes your situation. One of the most powerful prayers that I ever pray is this: “Lord I thank you that in this awful situation, I know that you are with me and that you will bring about good from this terrible time. And I thank you for what you are doing, even though I cannot see it.” Or words to that effect. I say this is a powerful prayer and it is. In many ways and on many levels. It is not easy. I would rather wait for something that I like before I say thank you, but then I would be trapped by circumstances and things beyond my control. Praying this way shifts me from being a victim to taking the initiative in change.
And on a less dramatic scale, giving someone a word of thanks or praise changes their day as well as yours. Start small and let it grow.
1. The Algebra of Happiness, Scott Galloway, Penguin Books, 2019
Photo credit: woodleywonderworks (Creative Commons)