There are few things that bring a smile to our faces than when someone is thankful and shows their gratitude for what they received. But that smile can be quickly erased by another who is unthankful and exhibits a sense of ingratitude no matter how good the gift may have been. Since it seems hard to distinguish any difference between the two, psychologists tell us that thankfulness is a social norm applicable in general situations while gratitude is the special manifestation of spirituality, love, and affection.

Being thankful reveals one’s attitude. Psychologist Suzanne Kane explains that saying thankyou and showing your appreciation does more good than you may think. This benefit grows both to the giver and recipient. Indeed, these types of expressions and acts are powerful forms of gratitude. Yet, while it may seem normal to be verbally appreciative at certain times and with specific people, there’s much more that you can get out of thankfulness at other times.

Susan Krause Ph.D., notes that we all like being thanked. It’s a great feeling to have someone, especially someone who doesn’t stand to gain, tell us that we made a difference in their lives. In the past few weeks, I’ve had the good fortune of receiving some heartfelt thank you notes from students, pausing as they got ready to leave campus for the summer, or perhaps for good, to take a moment and let me know that something I said or did proved helpful to them. I’ve also had the good fortune of having favors done for me by people who went out of their way to help me solve a problem, fix something, or in fortunately only one case- return a lost cellphone. Being thanked and having reason to thank others are two sides of the same gratefulness coin. Both exemplify the positive in human behavior and provide us with a positive charge that boosts our emotional balance.

Dr. Krause goes on to say that if you’re at the receiving end of a thank-you, you may feel unsure about how to reciprocate. Does a thank-you present require a thankyou note? What about thanking someone who’s helped you? Do you reward a person who returns a lost item with cash or just allow your relieved face to serve as its own reward? Then there’s the guilt factor: What if you let a few weeks slip by without sending a thank-you note for a birthday gift? Does it look worse to send a belated thank-you note or just to forget the whole thing and hope the gift-giver won’t notice?

And science writer Seth Borenstein says that while it seems pretty obvious that thankfulness is a positive attitude, psychologists for decades rarely delved into the science of giving thanks. But in the last several years they have, learning in many experiments that it is one of humanity’s most powerful outlooks on life. It makes you happier and can change your attitude about life, like an emotional reset button.

Psychologist Taylor Bennett lists six benefits of being thankful: First, being thankful improves your physical heath. Second, it advances your psychological health as well. Third, it can help you sleep better. By being thankful you feel less tired at the end of the day. Fourth, it helps foster new relationships. Fifth, it enhances empathy and lessens aggression. Sixth, it can improve your self-esteem. And Melissa Dahl, senior editor for a New York magazine adds two more. Seventh, you will appreciate those closest to you and make them feel wanted. Eighth, your fellow employees will work with you even harder to get things done.

These scientifically-proven benefits of showing thankfulness, says Bennett, permits us to be thankful for all of your treasures and blessings, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every day. Not only will you show your loved ones how much they really mean to you, but you’ll also do some good for your own overall wellbeing.

Yet, what does the Bible say about thankfulness? The Psalmists are not quiet about this. In fact, they were jubilant at the idea of being thankful. They write: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, call on His name!”[1] And in one Psalm following another, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!”[2] There’s no better way to begin a day than in giving thanks to the One who makes living possible.

The Apostle Paul says, “Whatever happens, always be thankful. This is how God wants you to live in the Anointed One, Jesus.”[3] And again, “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One.”[4] He also tells believers, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have.”[5] And to those in Greece he writes, “Thanks be to God for His gifts that are too wonderful to describe.”[6]

Then Paul composes it into a blessing and benediction: “Let the peace that the Anointed One gives control your thinking. It is for peace that you were chosen to be together in one body. And always be thankful. Let the teaching of the Anointed One live inside you richly. Use all wisdom to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Everything you say and everything you do should be done for Jesus your Lord. And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus.[7]

As the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody once said, “If we make a full surrender, God will give us something better than we have ever known before.  We will get a new vision of Jesus the Anointed One, and will thank God not only in this life but in the life to come.” So, how can you ever hope to thank Him when you meet Him face to face in the sky, if you don’t thank Him now? And how can you stand beside your loved one who just passed away and thank them for all the good things they did for you when they can’t hear it? Or, what good does it do to thank someone late or without really showing any gratitude? Keep all these things in mind and be thankful for being reminded now, instead after it is too late. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Psalm 105:1

[2] Ibid. 106:1; 107:1

[3] 1 Thessalonians 5:18

[4] Ephesians 5:20

[5] Philippians 4:6

[6] 2 Corinthians 9:15

[7] Colossians 3:15-17

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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