Friday, November 11, 2011

The Gratitude Attitude

by Barbara Early

You hand a child a cookie, and wait for the magic words.

If he forgets, you prompt him. “What do you say?”

And if you’re like me, you hold on to the cookie until he says, “Thank you.”

Why do parents do this? Are we strict? Legalistic? On a power trip?

Or maybe we just hope the child refuses, and then we can eat the cookie. Well, maybe.

But maybe we’re interested in instilling the virtue of gratitude into our children. Part of that is a tad selfish. Ungrateful children are demanding and difficult to live with. They stomp around, never satisfied, expecting the world to give them what they think they want. It was Shakespeare who penned “How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!” So unless we want to become perpetual slaves to our children, we need to teach them not to take for granted what they have, and to show appreciation for what they receive.

And now there are more reasons than ever before to teach them (and ourselves if we’ve missed or forgotten the lesson) gratitude and thankfulness. Apparently it’s a key factor in determining happiness.

Counting our blessings--or more accurately chronicling all we have to be thankful for--goes a long way in determining future happiness. Psychologist Robert Emmons, who has made a career for himself studying the psychology of gratitude says, “ those who kept gratitude journals felt better about their lives, exercised more and were more optimistic about the week ahead. The other group who kept their journaling to negative events didn’t show these positive results at all.”

So what do we have to be thankful for? Probably more than we think.

Richard Wiseman, in his book 59 Seconds: Thinks a Little, Change a Lot, suggests that we lose sight of those aspects of our lives that should bring us happiness. He likens it to walking into a room where bread is baking in the oven. The pleasant aroma is unmistakable. (If bread is not your thing, consider cinnamon rolls, pizza, a turkey dinner, or chocolate chip cookies. Yum.) But the longer we remain in the room, the less we’re aware of the smell. We become accustomed to it, and our brain no longer notices it. In order to smell it again, we have to leave the room for a period of time, and reenter.

Keeping a journal of what we have to be thankful for forces our attention back to the pleasant things in our lives and allows us to enjoy them more. Melody Beattie said, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Of course, the importance of thankfulness doesn’t take God by surprise. Nor does the importance of chronicling our blessings. Psalm 136 is just such a journal.
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:
The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:
The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:
With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:
But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.
To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:
Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever:
Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.
O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.
While we're thinking about gratitude, Veteran's Day is also a good day to thank a veteran for his sacrifice that has helped preserve our freedom.

Question: What are you thankful for today?

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and facebook scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder will be released from White Rose Publishing in time for the holiday season. You can learn more about her writing on her personal blog: or see what's for dinner on her recipe blog:


  1. Hi Barb,

    I have so much to be thankful for. It's funny, I always take time to be thankful for big things, but some times I forget to be thankful for the little things until an hour or day or two after the fact. I'm not sure why that is, but it's something I'm working on. I was thinking just this morning (Thursday morning) that it would be so awesome if we could all show the same level of gratitude - to God (and to each other) for big and little things - that my little cat shows me every time I feed her.

    Great post, and I ditto the thanks to all the veterans - my dad, brother, and brother-in-law included - oh, and Anita Mae, too!

  2. Suzie--

    I think you're right about the little things. I am truly thankful for my first cup of morning coffee at the moment.

    Perhaps the key to finding those little things that we forget to give thanks for, is recognizing what we really would miss if it were taken away.

    And yes, we need to thank all our veterans. I can thank my dad and uncle, and remember my grandfather. And the "thanks" is important. My dad came home from Vietnam during a period when thanking veterans was not the norm--spitting on them was. I think the rude homecoming did more damage to him than any of the things he saw during the conflict.

  3. I'm thankful for my husband who dodged bullets and landmines to return to the girls and I. If he hadn't been able to return, our boys would never have been born. I still have Nelson's letters sent while overseas. They're filled with enough horrible details to keep a writer's imagination busy for ten lifetimes. And they're also filled with love and longing for the girls and I. I'm so thankful he's safe with us.

    And I'm thankful for all veterans for putting themselves in the line of danger so we can have freedom in our social, physical and spiritual lives.

    I posted Pastor Lorne's Sunday's message to the church blog last night. Part of it reads, "We celebrate Remembrance Day because we have freedom. Because no one is going to come and break down the door and stop us from worshipping. We can revel in the Lord without worry."

    It a really good post, Barb. Tks.


  4. Anita--

    Rejoicing with you for Nelson's safe return.

    We've had religious freedom for so long, it's one of those things that we take for granted. But historically, and even in other parts of our world today, it's a rare thing.

  5. I'm very, VERY thankful for those who devote their lives to keeping us safe and free. It's a hard job, and I appreciate them being willing to do it.

    Beyond that, I'm outrageously blessed and there isn't space in the whole internet for me to list everything else I'm thankful for. :D

  6. Many people think of Canadians only as Peace Keepers because that's our role in NATO and the UN, however, I'd like to send out a thank you those 150 families who've lost loved ones since Canada started sending troops to Afghanistan on Peace Keeping duties.

    As a Peace Keeper, our troops aren't allowed to fire until they are fired upon.

    And sometimes that's just too late.

  7. Anita, I had know idea. It never occurred to me that Peacekeepers didn't play the same role as soldiers. I'm in awe of their bravery and sacrifice.

  8. DeAnna--

    Outrageously blessed. I like that. Sounds like a good title for an inspirational book on gratitude.

    Anita Mae--

    Good point about the Canadian forces. While we commemorate Veteran's Day, the Canadians commemorate Remembrance Day (Did I get that right, Anita?)

  9. I love the Melody Beattie quote, and oh boy is it enjoyable to be around people who are thankful. It transforms us into Joy Full, as well. And of course being around ungrateful people. GRRRRR.

    This has been a super day on Facebook. Don't you love seeing all the shout-outs and photos for our loved ones who have served the nation?

    I loved this post.
    Thank You!

    I'm grateful today especially for the support of writer friends. Who ya gonna call?
    And the fact it's Friday!

    I'm blessed in a million ways. I want to be thankful in all circumstances and God is working on that.

  10. Deb, what a great way to wrap up the day. That joy is contagious.


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