Growing Gratitude: You Are What You Do
Do you live as if today is just another day in your life?
Well, it’s not. Today is the one day that is given to you. It is a gift. It is grace that you are alive right now at this moment. What will you do with this gift?
You can ignore the gift and take this day for granted. Or you can live this day as though it has been granted to you, given to you as a gift.
When we take things for granted, we live as people entitled to something that was not first ours. But when we live life as granted, we live as though nothing is our own, as though everything is a gift. And this way of living turns us to gratitude, towards giving thanks.
On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”
When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
Gertrude Stein has said this that captures a truth in this story:
Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.
The Greek term used in verse 16 for the Samaritan’s thanksgiving is EUCHARIST!
His thanksgiving is sacred, like communion. Recall from a few weeks ago that Eucharist literally means good grace. The Samaritan is giving thanks, saying grace because of the grace given him.
Jesus responds saying, “Your faith has healed you.” But Jesus isn’t just referring to his medical condition. It is also about his soul, his salvation. Your faith is saving you!
These words from Jesus are a sign of the literal and spiritual redirection of his life and faith. The scripture says the man turned around towards Jesus. He physically and spiritually turns in a new direction by giving thanks. The other 9 leper’s do not do this. This one is different. His life change is far more dramatically than the others.
Gratitude Changes Things
First and foremost, gratitude is the story above is a step towards salvation! By giving thanks, the Samaritan was living the way of God!
Science shows us lots of other ways gratitude changes us. For example, studies have shown that people are 25 percent happier if they keep gratitude journals, sleep one-half hour more per evening, report fewer health complaintsand exercise 33 percent more each week compared to persons who are not keeping these journals.
Aristotle once said:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.
Gratitude is not AN act, but a habit. As we practice gratitude, we become grateful. (Note: I am not saying push yourself to the point of becoming frustrated with some gratitude practice or do it so much that you cringe when you think about your daily practice. Over practicing something can lead us away from the thing we seek. Be smart about your practice. Be gentle with yourself. Find balance.)
Here are some Gratitude Practice ideas (just google search these and you’ll find lots of info):
- Gratitude Journal
- Gratitude jar – like a penny jar! (Look back at them once a year like on New Year’s Day)
- Gratitude Letters
- Gratitude phone call
- Gratitude visit
- Spend quality time focused on a person you are grateful for
- Give more compliments
- Don’t just say “thank you” – say:
- What I love about you is…”
- “My wish for you is…”
- “Here’s what yo mean to me…”
- “This is how you impacted my life…”
- Smile more often, laugh out loud, giggle, chuckle, Cry tears of joy
- Do a Gratitude Act each day – give someone a gift, praise, act of service to show your thanks
- Focus on people- if you are thankful for a thing, turn your focus towards a person responsible for that thing (the giver, the maker, the inventor, ie. the people behind the service)
- Celebrate Everything – especially accomplishments and milestones
- Donate, Volunteer, Get Involved
- Learn something from everything – a learning posture is a grateful posture
- When you find yourself complaining, force yourself to see something positive in the situation for which you can give thanks
- Place reminder notes around the house or your office that remind you to give thanks
- Pray and meditate on the gifts you have experienced each day
- Look for and express the good of the mundane and ordinary
- Help others see the glass half full
- Find opportunity in mistakes
- Say aloud things you are thankful for before a meal
- Express yourself! So many of us think things, but we do not express the outside of ourselves. Try these:
- Sing! Sing! Sing! – in the car, shower, church choir, whatever! Just sing!
- Draw, paint, write, build, create…do something with your feelings!
- Create a gratitude wall or board full of pictures and quotes of things you are grateful for. Put it in a place where you see it every day (like when you wake up).
- Try even just going outside and literally shouting! (This can be very cathartic)
- Say thank you aloud to yourself! Look in the mirror and say “I appreciate you.”
- On anniversaries and birthdays, write a letter or list of highlights from the past year
- Random acts of kindness (pay it forward!)
- Start and end your day with a gratitude prayer