The Discipline of Thankfulness
I just had my first Thanksgiving with my in-laws yesterday. My in-laws are the type of family that like to go around the table and have each member share what they are thankful for. Basically, it’s everything I disdain in table talk.
I am someone who dreads full attention on me…especially when put on the spot. I’m the person who likes to thoroughly think through my response, spending days on end prepping for the perfectly eloquent retort. But in all honesty, it’s mostly difficult for me to share on things like “what I am thankful for” when I don’t necessarily feel it.
For example, one of the biggest struggles I have with my husband in our marriage is apologizing; I will not commit to the words “I am sorry” if I don’t feel like I mean it.
I think the same can be true in our search for thankfulness. It’s easy to be thankful when we feel it. But what about the times when thankfulness appears more distant? What about the times when life weighs heavier on our hearts and thankfulness is more elusive?
The past couple of months I have felt more inclined to share with others what has been a burden in my life rather than what was brought me joy. Okay, I think the majority of my life this has been easier - to complain rather than rejoice. Who’s with me? It’s easy to dwell in what is going wrong in our lives. The true struggle comes when choosing to focus on what’s going right in our lives. This has caused me to question if thankfulness is more of a decision than a granted destination.
I’m pointing all this out to say that maybe thankfulness is more of a discipline. Maybe we spend too much time letting our emotions dictate when we can truly relish in authentic thankfulness. And maybe we need to spend more time faking it until we make it.
Because, let’s face it, choosing to focus on the good in our life probably makes us happier than focusing on the bad.
So I am choosing to focus on what I am thankful for more, even outside of the Thanksgiving holiday. And I am choosing to focus on not only the significant but also the insignificant things in my life that put even the slightest smirk on my face:
· like when my husband decided decorate our Christmas tree by placing a Star Wars’ replica of a Millennium Falcon in the middle of it;
· or coming home to someone cleaning our burnt stove after making a mess of it from cooking mashed potatoes earlier that day;
· or watching my niece freak out over a Mickey Mouse shaped trophy in my brother-in-law’s room;
· or that my earl grey lavender tea was the perfect temperature;
· or that I slept in until 10 a.m. today;
· or that my mom finally learned how to text and will regularly send me the most thoughtful run-on sentences
Because Henri Nouwen said, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep on choosing it every day.”
Every day doesn’t always come with significant, life-changing moments to rejoice over. But everyday comes with at least one insignificant thing that brings an instant of joy.
So let’s daily strive for thankfulness in our hearts, choosing to give thanks for the significant and insignificant moments of our lives…and maybe sharing what we’re thankful for next Thanksgiving won’t put us into a minor panic attack.