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Gratitude is about the object, not the subject. The pilgrims understood this

‘What are you thankful for?’ is the wrong question


By —— Bio and Archives--November 23, 2017

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Thanksgiving, Gratitude
You hear this question every year, especially if you watch dopey morning television shows. (Alas, is there any other kind?) Grinning, blow-dried anchors and anchorettes act like they’re mouthing a profundity as they gaze into the camera and put it to you, Greg!

“What are you thankful for?”

It’s the perfect encapsulation of our culture, with its focus on stuff. As are the inevitable answers.

“I’m thankful for my Maserati.”

“I’m thankful for Netflix.”

“I’m thankful for telecommuting.”

“I’m thankful I wasn’t born a Browns fan.”

How many ways can you humblebrag your way through this exercise? Of course, there are the requisite citations of family, which are so boilerplate that they scarcely matter. The really interesting answers - the ones the TV yokels are looking for - are the ones that stand out from other people’s answers.

“I’m thankful the goiter on my neck was surgically removed three years ago, and I’m starting to think about re-entering polite society.”

You win. Everyone can go home.

But of course, none of this is even close to the real spirit of the original Thanksgiving. The pilgrims didn’t pause to count up their cool stuff, as they didn’t really have any. They’d had a rough go of it, and in many ways their future was still not guaranteed. But God had taken care of them throughout the journey, and the point of their gratitude was to acknowledge His goodness.

And when Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1863, he was explicit about Who was to get the thanks:

Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.

In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

 

Continued below...

The truth is that gratitude with a focus on what is not gratitude at all. You can’t be thankful to nothing and no one in particular. When was the last time you said thank you to an empty room? When you sit there making a list of all the stuff you have, or of all the things you like about your life, you’re not really thanking anyone. You’re just bragging.

The purpose of gratitude is to not only acknowledge but also to honor the giver of the blessing. That involves expressing thanks with words, but it’s more than that. It also involves making use of the blessing in a way that honors its source.

Let’s say someone gives you a beautiful new coat and you never wear it. You don’t even hang it in your closet. You just stuff it in the box it came in and keep it in the corner. That was clearly not the spirit in which the gift was given, so you can’t very well claim to be grateful for it. You’re not. You’re dishonoring the giver with the way you’re using the gift.

Well what if I don’t like the coat?

Fine. You don’t like the coat. Just don’t tell me you’re practicing real gratitude, because you’re not.

But even that isn’t as important as honoring the person himself or herself for giving it to you. That’s the essence of gratitude. Can you imagine sitting there at Christmas and opening a gift that you know came from a specific person, only to look at the gift and never even acknowledge the giver while declaring, “I’m thankful for this”? How would the giver of the gift feel if you did that? Not very honored, that’s for sure.

That’s how we treat God when we engage in these dopey “What are you thankful for?” segments. It’s not the what you need to honor. It’s the giver of all blessings.

His name is God, just in case you needed that clarified.



Dan Calabrese -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dan Calabrese’s column is distributed by HermanCain.com, which can be found at HermanCain.com

A new edition of Dan’s book “Powers and Principalities” is now available in hard copy and e-book editions. Follow all of Dan’s work, including his series of Christian spiritual warfare novels, by liking his page on Facebook.

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