Gratitude

Diana Butler Bass in her book Grateful, starts out by saying, “I have always struggled with gratitude. I want to be grateful, but too often I find myself with no thanks.”

You’ve got to love that. A book on gratitude written by one who claims to be lousy at it. I don’t know about you, but many books seem to be written by those who are just a bit too self-assured. I will gladly listen to advice on thanksgiving from one who admits she struggles with the whole idea.

My interest was rewarded by multiple gems, like the following:

“Gratitude is, however, more than just an emotion. It is also a disposition that can be chosen and cultivated, an outlook toward life that manifests itself in actions—it is an ethic. By “ethic,” I mean a framework of principles by which we live more fully in the world. This ethic involves developing habits and practices of gratefulness that change us for the better. Gratitude involves not only what we feel, but also what we do.”

“A disposition that can be chosen and cultivated.” That is good. That is really good.

So how could I put such cultivation and choice into practice?

  • Keep a thanksgiving journal or log. Simply write down the blessings and serendipities of any given day. On my list for today? After a week of rain, comes a cloudless January day. Thank you Jesus.

  • Write letters of thanks. Not emails—old-fashioned letters with stamps attached.

  • Say thank you. Make a game of it. How many people can you thank in a day, from the mother who gave birth to you to the server at lunch?

  • Take a prayer time each week where you only express thanks, nothing else.

  • Learn to playfully chide yourself for behavior that does not engender thanksgiving. My wife and I have started laughing at ourselves when we gripe about other drivers.

  • Do things that make you happy. I know this sounds self-absorbed, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, I love my local library. Stopping by and reading for 30 minutes in the late afternoon fills me with joy. And thanksgiving.

What about you? What can you do to cultivate gratitude?