The Gratitude Formula

“BE Thankful”- We have heard it and we have said it countless times, especially on a day like Thanksgiving. If the truth be known, then we don’t just expect ourselves to be thankful, but we expect our kids, spouses, siblings, children, parents, employees, employers and basically everyone that we share an interaction with to BE THANKFUL. Lately, I have come to the conclusion that we don’t just want everyone to be thankful, but we want to be thanked. Maybe. it is because we believe that saying thank you is a sign that we are thankful. Maybe, we expect a thank you because deep down we believe that we are entitled to it. Perhaps somewhere in all of this, we believe that being thankful can change us from the outside -in and with the right thankfulness formula…we can get the results we want by being thankful.

If what I say and believe is true, then it seems that the monoculture has, as one should expect, corrupted the reasons why we should be thankful and it has (as one should expect) sabotaged what it means to be thankful by making it part of a consumer transaction. Consequently, it appears that entitlement and being thankful now go hand in hand and the more we get, then the more we expect ourselves to be thankful and the more we are thankful, then the more we are entitled to get. Likewise, the more we “give” to people, then the more we are entitled for them to be thankful. As consumers, we have been led to believe that if we could just be thankful enough, then it would transform our spirits, hearts, minds and relationships. In other words, being thankful would get us something in return.

So, we take thankfulness and we do what we gluttonous consumers do best and we fry, cover, smother and top every consumer transaction with a big old pile of “be thankful” believing that “being thankful” is something we can conjure up out of consumer lifestyle curated for the maximum pursuit of our individual happiness. In fact, hasn’t “thank you” become a necessary requirement for the perfect consumer experience, and why we feel especially good when someone serves us and thanks us or hands us a sackful of crap with a “My pleasure!”

I have to wonder if the reason why we plaster “Be thankful” on signs, notebooks, cups, T-shirts and stitch it in pillows proves that we are, in fact, not thankful. Even worse than not “being” thankful, maybe it proves that we believe we can “be thankful” without being a giver and receiver of life, love and truth and imitating the way, the truth and life who sacrificed everything to love God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength and love his neighbors as himself.

For the last few years, I have been asking my friends and family to consider if thankfulness has become another variable in the consumer formula to make us feel better about being consumers and our transactional consumer lifestyle? Have the promptings from the world to be thankful become so rampant because we have forgotten who we are and how we are designed to live and love, and this is why we are attracted to formulas that promise results. Likewise, why we easily buy into a thankfulness formula that guarantees “If we are thankful (enough), then gratitude will transform us from the inside-out.”

As a result of us living for results, do we take our gratitude formula and we use it like a formula and we force ourselves to be thankful, even when we are not. Do we tell ourselves and others to just do it and we grind out thankfulness? And if, I mean when telling ourselves and others to “be thankful” doesn’t work, then do we resort to the usual “motivators” of fear, guilt and shame. Who hasn’t been a victim of “If you are not thankful, then there’s a chance you could lose it” or “If God took away everything you didn’t say thanks for today, then what would you have tomorrow?” Don’t forget the classic, “How can you not be thankful, when people are starving all over the world?”

Do we, out of fear of reaping the consequences of not being thankful enough say, “Thank you” and we do what needs to be done to prove we are thankful. But…I have to ask if we are really thankful? No doubt. motivation has motivated me to “do” something to prove that I am thankful, say “Thank you” and make a list of everything I am thankful for, but does motivation really have the power to create the heart change needed to BE THANKFUL.

Have you ever really thought about thankfulness? Have you asked if we have turned thankfulness into something that we use to get more? Is being thankful just an act and is it something we should reward or praise someone for? Is thankfulness simply a means to an end?

As a nice southern girl, I was raised to be thankful. Yes ma’am, no sir, thank you, no thank you, thank you notes, prayers and regular old southern politeness were more usually than enough to prove thankfulness when you were told to be thankful and how to be thankful. But forty-some years later, I can honestly confess that I was kind of good at “doing thankful” but I wasn’t thankful. Honestly I didn’t really know there was a difference until I experienced what real love looked like, tasted like, sounded like, smelled like and felt liked. You might know the kind of love that I am talking about. It is the kind of love that moves in, sleeps on your couch, knits you a sweater, makes you meals, pursues you relentlessly and kisses you nonstop when you are covered with guilt, pain, shame and fear.

Consequently, it was this love that set me free from doing many things, including trying to prove that I was thankful. Instead this Love invited me to rest and to just be loved for who I am and not who I would be or what I could do. See…inside-out transformation happens when love invites you to be known and accepted, and live as you are designed without fear of being rejected. When I experienced this kind of love, I discovered a thankfulness that overflowed from the depths of my soul.

Yes, the AMAZING result of being loved so deeply and freely was that I wanted to give that love away. In fact, when I looked around, I saw this love (that was filled with truth, hope, joy, kindness, goodness, patience, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control) was already overflowing into many areas of my life and relationships. It’s crazy to see what this kind of love does to heal and help you, and then flow through you and out of you to heal and help others. It creates these beautiful spaces in our hearts and lives where we can just sit with each other, just be ourselves, find rest and be thankful.

See, thankfulness and gratitude aren’t things you do or you can be if you don’t know how very much you are loved. In fact, thankfulness becomes an overflow of who you are when you know the truth that you are completely acceptable and fully known, and you are loved for exactly who you are and not what do or don’t do,, including being thankful.

I don’t know about you but I think today is a perfect day to Give-Up the gratitude formula. Instead of focusing or forcing thankfulness, I hope you creat the space to receive and give love. This love must be discovered in you first before you can give it away. Perhaps, we start our gratitude journey by not trying to conjure up thankfulness and force thankfulness down people’s throats, but by just trying to be honest about all the ways we do and we don’t, we have and we have not loved ourselves and others well. It is only truth that can set us free to receive and give the love who we can truly and naturally be thankful for.

It’s wonderful to have discovered Love inviting us to be known, accepted and loved, because it is only Love that has the power to create tables, hearts and lives that overflow with thankfulness. So, today and every day fight the good fight to remember you are loved by God. He loves you beyond anything you can know or imagine and his love moves through you to Love like you are being loved.

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