The Gratitude Formula

BE Thankful”- Isn’t that something that we not only want ourselves to be, but we want our kids, spouses, siblings, children, parents, employees, employers and basically everyone that we share an interaction with to be too? We tell ourselves to be thankful. We tell our families, friends and even strangers to “be thankful” believing that thankfulness can change them and how they treat others.

It seems that entitlement and being thankful go hand in hand. The more we are given, the more we expect ourselves to be thankful and the more we are thankful, then the more we are entitled to be given. Likewise, the more we give to people, the more we are entitled for them to be thankful.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, it would get us something.

Perhaps, it is because we have forgotten who we are and how we are designed to live, that we are so attracted to formulas that promise results and we easily buy into a thankfulness formula that tells us, “If we are thankful (enough), then gratitude will transform us from the inside-out.”

As a result, we take our gratitude formula and we use it like a formula and we force ourselves to be thankful, even when we are not. We grind out thankfulness and if telling ourselves and others to “be thankful” doesn’t work, then 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?”

Out of fear of reaping the consequences of not being thankful enough, we say, “Thank you” and we do what needs to be done to prove we are thankful. But, are we really thankful? Motivation usually motivates 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 we turned thankfulness into something that we use to get more? Is it just an act? 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 being judged on thankfulness. Forty-some years later, I can honestly admit 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.

It was this love that set me free from doing many things, including trying to prove that I was thankful and just be loved for who I was. 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.

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 isn’t something 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.

Today, I invite you to Give-Up the gratitude formula. Instead, I hope you find love. Love that’s there for you to both receive and give. Love that must be discovered in you first, before you can give it away. Let’s 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 love and be loved for who we are and not for what we do or don’t do.

I have discovered it is this place of honesty that invites us to be known, accepted and loved, and it is only love that creates tables, hearts and lives that overflow with thankfulness. So, today and every day fight the good fight to remember you are loved, love yourself and love others.

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