By Selwyn Duke
The great philosopher G.K. Chesterton once said, "Thanks are the highest form of thought." It was more than just a clever turn of phrase. Not only is it true, but cultivating a thankful spirit is one of the keys to happiness.
A person who is truly thankful is operating at a very high level of moral development. His prayers and his thoughts of others aren't dominated by desires, by a laundry list of things that he doesn't have, but by appreciation for what he does have. He counts his blessings, not his curses.
To illustrate this, consider a spoiled child versus a thankful one. What do we think about a child with an attitude of entitlement, one who is never satisfied with and thankful for what he has and who always screams and cries for more? Now contrast this with a youngster who expects nothing, one whose face lights up when he receives a gift and who is truly thankful for it. The latter is far more lovable and is what we want our children to be, as his is a more highly evolved attitude. It is beautiful.
So should we try to be that beautiful child for God. Of course, cultivating such an attitude starts with the understanding that God gave us everything, starting with life, but there is yet more to it. Here is some food for thought.
Nothing engenders gratitude like the understanding that we are sinners. Because I've been blessed with this understanding -- and it is a blessing -- I realize that I deserve nothing. Thus, I know that everything, great and small, is a gift, a plus, icing on the cake. It allows me to practice something Chesterton spoke of (yes, this piece will be replete with his quotations):
"You say grace before a meal, all right. But I say grace before I dip the quill into the ink."
Don't get me wrong, I'm not masquerading as a cherubic creature who floats about in the ether; I can often be grumpy and impatient. But, in my finer moments, thankfulness does imbue my thoughts. These are also often my happiest moments. More about that later.
The spirit of entitlement, however, is born of just the opposite: A false sense of sanctity. When someone lives an unexamined life, when he fancies that he has been immaculately conceived and is blind to his own faults, he will always see the glass as half empty. Why, he has been denied his birthright, as a demigod such as himself should have the world at his feet. He is owed this and that, and he will protest and picket and pout until he gets what he has coming. He certainly has something coming alright.
It is probably no secret to you that a spirit of entitlement has come to characterize our nation. People have more than ever but tend to live wanting, not thanking. So many expect the nice house, fine car, high salary, and all the luxuries of which a prince can dream -- sometimes right out of college. What these people fail to understand, however, is that this attitude breeds misery.
Why? Well, to quote old G.K. one more time,
"Goods look a lot better when they come wrapped as gifts."
When we realize that all goods are gifts because we don't deserve them but get them anyway, we become happier. We then understand that we don't have less than we deserve, but far more. We're not being denied, but lavished upon. We don't then have a spirit of entitlement; we have a spirit of gratitude, one of the keys to happiness.
So while not every day is Thanksgiving, every day is a time for giving thanks. So, maybe a good Thanksgiving resolution is, quite simply, to strive to be more thankful. This spirit of gratitude can take root today, perhaps at the dinner table when you decide to say grace for the first time since childhood. Or maybe just when you say it with newfound conviction. And, remember, thanks is a beautiful word.
Be that good, sweet child. Be beautiful.
Happy Thanksgiving and God bless you!