Thankfulness Myths

1. It’s a chore. No! Thankfulness isn’t  an exercise like flossing, to make you a more rounded person. It’s a whole new way of looking at the world. It’s a command and a habit and an opportunity.  It is more than writing a list before you go to bed – though this might be a help.  It’s risky and thrilling and it changes you and the people around you.

2. It’s based on the good stuff you’ve got. Thankfulness is much bigger than material things or nice circumstances. It’s rooted in who God is and what He does and has done.  That blows your nice new fridge out of the water. Especially if the fridge breaks – or if your child draws on it or if you don’t get a new one to begin with.

3. If you do it, God will think you need a challenge and take the goodies away.  A. The greatest goodies we are given from God cannot be taken away. B. We don’t believe in karma do we? God is not balancing the scales, He’s the great Giver. So enjoy!

4. If you don’t do it, God will take your good stuff away and zap you miserable. See point 3. God is not waiting to slam you down if you step out of line.  In fact, He’s got more spiritual blessings to pour out than you can handle, (N.B: these blessings are not usually new cars or holidays).

5. It’s just a spin on positive thinking,  (I.e: ignoring negatives and clinging to false hope). Maybe some of the positive thinking people have stumbled across something of how we tick. But Christian thankfulness is not based on wishful thinking or how it makes us feel. It’s grounded in who God is and what He has done.

6. You can only do it if you’re feeling happy. If that’s true, then what about people like me who are natural worriers? Or grumps? If I wait till I feel grateful I’ll go to the grave muttering about what I’m owed. The bible says be thankful, not feel thankful – (and what’s interesting is that the feelings often follow the doing). Thankfulness means praising God in all circumstances, because my hope and identity are outside those circumstances. In fact during hard times we need gratitude the most! Thankfulness gives us new perspective and reminds us of the truth when we’re tempted to give up – it’s the difference between a life lived in self-pity and despair and one lived with grace and hope.

7. Gratitude is naive. So often we pride ourselves on cool, and detachment, and cynicism, but that’s not what the gospel creates. You might naturally think hopefulness and gratitude is weak. In fact it takes much more strength to look outside yourself and embrace life than to shut down and stay self-focused.

8. It’s about being polite.  Thankfulness is more than just saying grace at meals (tho there’s nothing wrong with this!) or doing something because you feel it would be rude not to.  It’s an expression of our hearts – a way of blessing those who give to us, and an acknowledgement of gift and giver.

9. I earned it so I don’t need to say thanks. Rubbish! We can’t even earn the air that we breathe, let alone the heaven of blessings that Christ has given us.

10. I’m not a thank-y sort of person. I imagine that when you were born you weren’t a toilet-trained sort of person either.  See where I’m going..?

11. It means settling for less. Perhaps we worry that if we tell God we’re grateful for this amount of blessing, He’ll stop blessing us. But gratitude is not about settling – but learning contentment whilst you keep praying and waiting on the Lord. Whilst you wait and trust, it sets you free from slavery to the things you haven’t got and a person/life that doesn’t exist.

12. It’s about being nice.  Nice is neither here nor there.  (I hate the word ‘nice.’ And I don’t think Jesus was nice.  Compassionate, gentle, passionate, selfless – yes. Nice? No).

13. It’s about making ME feel better. Lots of people say ‘practise thankfulness’ because it makes you happier.  This might be a side-effect, but it’s not the goal.  It’s not about us.  It’s directed to God and to others with the aim of blessing them and acknowledging their kindness. It’s a way of going outside of ourselves, not further in.

14. Gratitude is boring.  No – it’s brilliant.


What helps you say thanks?

6 thoughts on “Thankfulness Myths

  1. Good list Emma.
    Being the opposite of pride (see #9) gratitude also happens to be the All-Time biggest shame buster out there.
    I am so sore today after a long hike to a beautiful hidden beach with children yesterday and I would like to wallow in shame for being an old out-of-shape mom. It didn’t help that there were a lot of people around us hiking about in their underwear, making it really clear that they were in great shape and not old at all (boo, hiss).

    More opportunity for growth there…

    But my children had a wonderful time. Even though their mom is not a super-fit marathoner. All in all, a really magical day. The whole trip was an amazing gift of time, location, weather, and physical ability (last year I had a broken ankle and there were ZERO fun outings like this). I could not have planned such a thing. Even the harder parts.
    So, I can only be grateful.

  2. But. Its. *TRUE* – #3 is Absolutely True. Eg, God gives you a job interview for a permanent place at a local publisher. And then you are thank-y and then/so He snatches it away. You thought you’d take the spot at a certain juncture but two weeks before the start, the position is (suddenly) gone!!!

    #4 don’t know how its possible *but* Also True (??!! God, You’re so weird. Either way, thank-y or not, I lose. That’s neither fun nor fair …) I’m probably not thank-y enough, that’s why I had to take two internships in a row instead of getting a permanent job. & of course I know it’s not a car or holiday – see, that’s exactly why I’m not talking abt cars or holidays! I’m talking jobs. This. Is. Legit.

    Idk, God hates me – can’t win either way, that’s how #3 & #4 contradict yet make sense together, I suppose.

    … while the above are factually true, I’m kidding!

    #3 – God provides an opportunity to write for a Christian column, .. which, at the end of the fourth week, turns out to be one of the most mind-numbing, but also fulfilling, things you’ve ever done. Your boss says its “full-time ministry”, and says that apart from human structures, “I may have to hold order as your boss, but we really are all co-workers in Christ”.

    At first it feels like, what is this dude talking about? How can a small online column be “full-time ministry”? But soon you understand. Soon, you find yourself examining what you thought were regular life events thru gospel lenses, & start questioning how to reconcile denominational differences (short answer? Not easy, sometimes you don’t know how. But not v important. gospel is more important). You begin to realise how important it is to be able to read and understand the Bible, and are thankful that you’ve been taught how to at young adults’ retreat.

    #4 – Internship turns out the better deal. Permanent job interviewer (potential boss) is dismissive of MH stuff, cos you look “so functional!” Internship boss tells you not to worry abt it when you write him a long personal email, detailing the annoyance that is social anxiety. He checks in *twice* to say it’s all good – he’s been down the MH road too, but is redeemed in Jesus.

    Um, still doesn’t change the fact that God is Weird. God, you’re Still Weird. But maybe wonderful Weird, not meanscarykarma Weird :D xx

    This comment turned out longer than expected, but I suppose you can tell why it had to be said in the way it is <3 x

    but also, our conversations from a while back birthed an article – the church one I was telling you about, a bit earlier. I've linked it to my name (click), and though I didn't sneak in direct quotes from A New Day in the end, the ideas abt imperfect community each having a role to play were used/shaped the direction of this article :-) :-) "Sarah" is J, my friend who reads your blog but didn't want to have her real identity go public on the web! ;p

  3. You’re right Caroline – gratitude is the anti-shame. And it’s gratitude not just for what we think we want, but what God supplies that we didn’t think was right for us…

    which is what I think Dee is talking about too!

  4. Thanks — I needed this! Have been reading Jeremiah, and Psalm 50:22-23. Thankfulness, gratitude, are exercises, meds, and nourishment that keep my old heart and brain healthy!

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