DO YOU view yourself as a grateful, thankful person? That is a question for each of us to consider. The Bible foretold that in our time, many people would be “unthankful.” (2 Tim. 3:2) You have likely met some who feel entitled to everything they have, as if most things were owed to them. It seems they feel that they do not need to be grateful for what they receive. Have you found that it is unpleasant to be around such people?
In contrast, Jehovah’s servants are told: “Show yourselves thankful.” We are to “give thanks for everything.” (Col. 3:15; 1 Thess. 5:18) In fact, cultivating a spirit of gratitude is good for us. There are a number of reasons why that is so.
GRATITUDE AND A BALANCED VIEW OF SELF
One solid reason for us to cultivate a grateful spirit is that it can contribute to a positive view of ourselves. A person who offers thanks is likely inclined to feel good about himself, and the one who receives the thanks feels better too. Why does gratitude produce both effects? Well, consider this example: When you realize that others are willing to do something for you, does that not suggest that you must be worth the effort? They care for you. When you sense that care, it should make you feel good about yourself. We can imagine that was so in the case of Ruth. Boaz showed generosity to Ruth. No doubt it made Ruth very happy to realize that someone cared about her.—Ruth 2:10-13.
It is especially appropriate to be grateful to God. No doubt, you have at times thought about the many spiritual and physical gifts he has provided and continues to provide. (Deut. 8:17, 18; Acts 14:17) But rather than give God’s goodness just a brief thought, why not take some time to ponder the many blessings that God has poured out on you and your loved ones. Meditating on your Creator’s generosity will intensify your appreciation for him and reinforce your sense of how much he loves and appreciates you.—1 John 4:9.
But go beyond just thinking about his generosity and pondering his blessings; give thanks to Jehovah for his goodness. (Ps. 100:4, 5) It has been said that “the expression of gratitude contributes in an important way to human happiness.”
GRATITUDE DRAWS PEOPLE CLOSER TOGETHER
Another reason why gratitude is good for you is that it strengthens friendship. All of us need to feel appreciated. When you sincerely thank another person for a kind act, the two of you are drawn closer to each other. (Rom. 16:3, 4) Furthermore, grateful people are more likely to be helpful people. They notice kindnesses expressed to them and feel moved to be kind in return. Yes, helping others leads to happiness. It is just as Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
Robert Emmons, codirector of a University of California study project on gratitude, made this point: “Seeing with grateful eyes requires that we see the web of interconnection in which we alternate between being givers and receivers.” The fact is that our lives are sustained and supported by others in many ways. For example, they may provide our food or give us medical attention. (1 Cor. 12:21) The grateful person clearly appreciates what others do for him. That being so, have you made it a habit to express gratitude for what others do for you?
GRATITUDE AND YOUR OUTLOOK ON LIFE
Another reason to cultivate gratitude is that being thankful helps you to focus on the positive rather than on the negative. In a sense, your mind works like a filter. It allows you to concentrate on certain aspects of your surroundings while blocking out other aspects. You tend to see positive things and pay less attention to problems. The more grateful you are, the more good you can see, which in turn makes you even more grateful. Having a grateful perspective on life will help you to do what the apostle Paul urged: “Always rejoice in the Lord.”—Phil. 4:4.
You will find that gratitude tends to neutralize negativity. Is it not hard to feel grateful and at the same time envious, sad, or resentful? Grateful people also tend to be less materialistic. They appreciate what they have and do not focus on getting more.—Phil. 4:12.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!
As a Christian, you realize that Satan would like you to be downhearted and demoralized by the hardships you face in these last days. He would love it if you adopted a negative, complaining spirit. Such a spirit could make you less effective as a bearer of good news. Actually, gratitude goes hand in hand with the fruitage of God’s spirit, including joy over the good that God has given you and faith in all his promises.—Gal. 5:22, 23.
Being one of Jehovah’s people, you probably agree with what has been said in this article about gratitude. Still, you realize that a grateful, optimistic outlook does not come naturally. Do not let that discourage you, though. You can develop and maintain a grateful outlook. How? Take time each day to think about some aspects of your life for which you can be grateful. The more you do that, the more natural the tendency to be grateful will become. That will make you far happier than are those who focus on life’s difficulties. Dwell on the good things that God and others do that uplift you, that give you pleasure. You might even start a journal. In it, you can record two or three things that make you feel grateful that day.
Some who have studied the matter say that “regular practice of gratitude can change the way our brain neurons fire into more positive automatic patterns.” A grateful person is a happier person. So count your blessings, savor your positive experiences in life, practice gratitude! Rather than take good things for granted, “give thanks to Jehovah, for he is good.” Yes, “give thanks for everything.”—1 Chron. 16:34; 1 Thess. 5:18.