In recent meditations on gratitude, the Lord has led me to consider how personal gratitude impacts the surrounding community. Most of these are not direct goals of gratitude, but some of the significant side effects.
- Gratitude exposes complaining. Get around a thankful, positive, hopeful person, and your negativity will be exposed. Be a thankful, positive, hopeful person, and you will indirectly expose the negativity of others.
- Gratitude suffocates negativity. It stifles criticism and confronts slander. There is a time and place for critiquing and evaluating. But gratitude in community has a way of suffocating habits of negativity, and tearing down patterns of destructive criticism.
- Gratitude encourages obedience. Expressing gratitude to others encourages them to continue obeying Christ and walking by the Spirit. At times, a word of affirmation and thanksgiving can be worth ten words of rebuke. You can motivate others by telling them how far they have to go, or by telling them how far God has brought them. There is a time and a place for both, but sometimes the latter can be harder (and can take more humility) to see and say.
- Gratitude flavors trials. Your gratitude will give your trials a certain flavor that others can taste. And when your trials are flavored with joy and thanksgiving, you will point people to the providence and goodness of God. I’m not talking about a plasticky professionalism that knows how to gloss over suffering and hurt with a few proven theological euphemisms. But we must reject the fearful attitude that restrains ourselves from expressing sincere gratitude in the midst of trials because we’re afraid that others around us may think it cliche.
- Gratitude exemplifies humility. Do you want to be humble? Be grateful. Do you want to teach humility? Be grateful. Do you want your humility to be true and sincere instead of counterfeit and stilted? Be grateful. Gratitude is one of the purest forms of humility.
- Gratitude opens eyes. Thankfulness opens people’s eyes to what God is doing, and it opens people’s eyes to what God can and will do. Gratitude highlights what someone else has done, which reveals that person’s heart, ability, and actions. When we are ungrateful, it is not because God is doing nothing worthy of our gratitude. It’s because our eyes are closed and our hearts are hard. Gratitude is a signpost that lifts our collective eyes to the attributes and actions of God.
- Gratitude shifts perspective. Gratitude in an individual creates a perspective shift. Where others see an obstacle, your gratitude will make them see an opportunity. Where people see a requirement, your thankfulness will help them see a privilege. Where your brothers and sisters see a trial, your thankfulness can make them see an opportunity to grow in faith and endurance. Where friends see a critic, your gratitude can help them see someone whom God will use to teach you hard but good things.
- Gratitude teaches theology. When you express thanksgiving about who God is and what He does, you instruct those around you. You tell them who God is, in an indirect yet impactful way. You can tell someone in the midst of their pain that God is working it all for good, or you can tell someone in the midst of your pain that God is working it all for good. Both are necessary, but the latter has a unique impact.
- Gratitude stirs up gratitude. Gratitude is contagious, just like negativity. It is difficult to be around grateful people without becoming at least a bit more grateful than you were before.
- Gratitude proclaims God. You can teach and instruct and challenge and encourage and speak into people’s lives six days a week and twice on Sunday. But gratitude has a unique way of humbly proclaiming God. No one can look at you and say, “You’re gifted.” They will only see the God you are thanking. Gratitude is a pointer quality. It always points elsewhere, and never to the grateful person.
One thought on “Gratitude in Community”
Thanks Gunner. This is really insightful, practically helpful, and convicting. As I read I also thought how the gratitude of others confronts me with that deceptive thought, “I am not grateful, I deserve this.” That is one of the most foolish things I hear myself think. Maybe this would be an illustration of #7 since gratitude of others stirs up this confrontation of my thoughts and by God’s grace leads to a shift of perspective.
I’m thankful for this post and the attention to impact on community. Our sin/obedience is not only personal, but has a ripple effect on community. And so we ought also to guard the beauty of the church through personal holiness, since it is a trade-off, not just affecting us but also removing our effectiveness from the building project called the church.
I want to spread gratitude with you tomorrow at PBC!