I love Thanksgiving. 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.
The Top Three Myths About Gratitude
As a spiritual discipline, gratitude is far more than an annual appreciation for family, food and friends. It’s about deliberately practicing thankfulness every single day of the year and avoiding these 3 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 just 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 called false 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 are just so darn thankful.
Genuine gratitude is selfless and doesn’t seek to 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 (tongue in cheek). 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 lives — and our efforts — in proper perspective. We recognize that every good and perfect gift comes from God, not from our ourselves or our own good works.
Celebrate this Thanksgiving. Enjoy time with family and friends. Feast on turkey and pie. But move beyond the myths about gratitude, and practice gratitude as a spiritual discipline all year long.