Gratitude is a fundamental ingredient of a life well-lived. But if we’re not careful, it’s easy to buy into the myths about gratitude and lose sight of the fact that at its core, gratitude is a spiritual discipline.
3 myths about gratitude
As a spiritual discipline, gratitude is far more than a basic appreciation for family or the essentials of life. It’s about deliberately practicing thankfulness every day — and it starts with avoiding some of the common myths about gratitude.
Myth #1: Gratitude is a feeling.
Gratitude is a state of being, not a feeling. Practicing gratitude requires active commitment to an attitude of thankfulness.
Scripture tell us to be thankful, not feel thankful. In fact, 1 Thessalonians tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. The practice of gratitude isn’t simply a response to good things or something you do when you receive a gift. Gratitude is a state of being that transcends circumstances — good or bad.
Regardless of our circumstances, we can give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his love endures forever (Psalm 106:1). Since God’s goodness doesn’t change, there is always a reason to be thankful. It’s that kind of commitment to gratitude that requires practice and spiritual discipline.
Myth #2: Gratitude deserves a reward.
Sometimes we express gratitude with the expectation of receiving something on the back end. That’s not genuine gratitude and it’s counterproductive.
Maybe we try to please God by recounting a long list of all the people and things for which we are thankful. Then we tack on a few requests, expecting a cosmic payout in the end because we’re thankful.
Genuine gratitude is selfless and doesn’t curry favor from God or other people. Gratitude is its own reward. Simply being a grateful person benefits you mentally, spiritually and even physically. (It’s been scientifically proven that people who practice gratitude have fewer aches and pains!)
Myth #3: Gratitude is about luck or hard work.
When we see our own hard work — or even the work of other people — as the sole reason for the blessings in our lives, then our gratitude misses the point. This kind of gratitude sets us above other people who “clearly aren’t as blessed” as we are. We become like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 who is “thankful” that he isn’ t like all the other sinners and evildoers, and “thankful” that he fasts and tithes.
When God is the center of our lives, our gratitude is directed toward him. It recognizes the role he plays in our lives, and keeps our efforts in proper perspective. We recognize every good and perfect gift comes from God, not from our ourselves or our own good works.
Celebrate life. Enjoy the time you spend with family and friends. Feast, drink, be merry and count your blessings. But move beyond the myths about gratitude, and learn how to embrace gratitude as a spiritual discipline.