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Thoughts on Thankfulness

Here is a German proverb: Little presents preserve friendship.

It is true, it is always the little things in life that make a difference. The finishing touches make a difference between a rushed, mediocre job and a professional one. The mediocre job may be functional and may last as long as the professional one does, except that we tend to treat a professional product with more care and provide needed maintenance. And, our perception and satisfaction level are completely different, whether the job was done well and looks good, or if small, missing details were glossed over.

We would always complain about faulty products that don’t perform the advertised functions, but we usually don’t complain about little details and let them slide, never realizing that this little flaw may eat away our satisfaction with the product.

Personal relationships are the same way. If there are gross incompatibilities, we generally end that relationship or let it die a graceful death. However, many of our relationships are compatible in all major areas, but we tend to neglect the little things that make an OK relationship a great one. Depending on the circumstances, this neglect can often lead to divorce, both literally and figuratively.

What, then, is the little detail that transforms an OK relationship into a great one? “Little presents” is a good start, but there is an even more important ingredient: Thankfulness and appreciation. We need to learn to be thankful.

As strange as it seems, thankfulness is the farthest away from our nature. We may be glad when someone does us a big favor, but that may not last long and is not the same is being thankful from the heart and expressing that thankfulness. However, the bigger issue is that we often don’t notice the little favors people are doing us. We seem to be conditioned to think that little favors are self-understood in our natural interaction with friends and family, so we don’t even acknowledge these things. 

We so often don’t notice little favors, either from friends, or from strangers, or from God.

Thankfulness is a learned attitude. If you doubt that, just observe little children, and see that they expect, even demand, everything their parents do for them. We need to train ourselves to be thankful and, for that, we need to sharpen our “eyes to see” when we receive favors that we did not earn, or if someone goes out of their way to fill our request, even if it was earned. Then, we need to express our thanks with feeling and from the heart. 

Before we can do all these things, we need to get rid of our entitlement attitude, expecting things and favors from God or other people because we deserve them. We don’t deserve anything we did not work for, and even then, when people do an excellent job doing what they owe us, we should be thankful to them for going out of their way.

You may ask by now; why go through the trouble of all of this? I am doing just fine, thank you very much. Maybe so, but if I say that, I also don’t know what I am missing. If I am actively thankful, my whole attitude towards life will change. I will see that people like me because they are doing me favors. Moreover, I see how blessed I am. And that is not all. If I thank others from the heart for little things others might not even notice, how do you think the “giver” will feel? Will that not make him feel good?

In all of this, we need to consider that favors and gifts are NOT all about money or things, but a little word of encouragement or a heartfelt compliment can make a difference in the life of people even more than a material gift.

An entitlement attitude is poison to happy and fulfilled lives, while thankfulness empowers our relationships to blossom, and it makes our soul glad. The apostle Paul reminded us “out of the blue”, in the middle of a sentence, without previous reference:

…….and be ye thankful…… (Col 3:15)

It was that important to him and it should be to us as well.

A thankful attitude is a great source of joy, both for the receiver of unmerited favors, and for the giver. Not only can it make for a happy day, but a thankful attitude can turn our lives around to feel loved and appreciated. What other thing can we think of that does not cost anything and can make two people happy at the same time?

Guest AuthorKlaus Meyer | BCWorldview.org

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