What is a Grateful Heart?
As we approach November and prepare for celebrating the season of Thanksgiving, we see messages of gratitude and thankfulness everywhere. But how do we cultivate a grateful heart?
When working with young people, we train them in how to cultivate a grateful heart in the way we lead them. When a young person is offered a gift, we train them in the proper response. When offered a piece of candy, the young person can respond, “Thank you!” Or they can grab the outstretched candy and remain silent. The first young person shows a grateful heart of appreciation. The second young person shows an attitude of entitlement i.e. “I deserve it, give it to me.”
We help to develop a young person’s manners by teaching them, “please” and “thank you.” Over time, the young person will embrace the external training of thanksgiving into a heart attitude of appreciation.
What is a grateful heart? It is a heart of appreciation.
A Grateful Perspective
Thankfulness is a choice. Practicing gratefulness is a choice we make every day in every situation.
Sometimes, we gain the perspective of gratefulness through hardships we have endured. My brother’s death in a plane crash at twenty-nine years of age, shifted me into appreciation for the gift of life. I moved from the assumption of each family member living to old age to the realization that any of us could die in a blink of an eye. I chose then, and choose now to cultivate gratefulness in my heart for this life I have the opportunity to live.
Life is to be celebrated. My brother’s early death taught me the “art of appreciation” – the ability to savor the moment with the Lord, and others.
November with Thanksgiving Day gives us a cultural perspective of gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation for all God provides for us, what others mean to us, and our opportunity to serve others.
“The generous life is marked by an almost distant awareness that it is in giving that we receive, that it is in dying to ourselves that we truly taste the fullness of living. To live generously is to taste the fruits of the age to come.
“Truly thankful people seem to be in touch with the fact that there is a transcendent reality running behind the most mundane of life’s activities. With this vision of eternity in their hearts, and the fragrance of eternity filling the air they breathe, they move forward into otherwise normal tasks with a sense of the immortal and eternal guiding their choices.” ~Dan Wilt
How to Cultivate a Grateful Heart
When driving in your car. Thank the Lord for the things you see around you:
- Blue sky with white fluffy clouds.
- Rain clouds and rain showers which are watering the trees, filling up the rivers, lakes and ponds.
- Business establishments which provide us services – banks, grocery stores, gas stations, etc.
We can find something to be thankful for everywhere – if we will look for it. It just takes a little time, a choice of our will, and eyes to see the Lord’s goodness all around us.
In every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 AMP
Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. Philippians 4:6 AMP
I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, Philemon 1:4 NASB
5 Tips in How to Practice Gratitude
Tip #1 – Keep a Gratitude Journal
Take a few minutes to express gratitude for three things you appreciate in your life. Writing down three things you are thankful for today will help you see past the negative events to the positive events which brings a brighter perspective.
- I’m grateful for the happy greeting my pet gives each morning when I awake.
- I’m thankful for this cup of tea.
- I’m thankful for the bright sunshine streaming through my window.
- I’m thankful for the rain watering my trees and garden.
Living from a heart of gratitude helps us to “live in the moment” and to “savor” our life. We begin to notice the flowers along our path, and the butterfly on the flowers. We notice the brightness of the stars, and the Big Dipper constellation. We notice the elderly couple walking hand-in-hand and rejoice in love still going strong. We notice the puppy learning to walk on a leash and laugh when he tries to chase a squirrel up a tree. We notice the cows in the pasture, and the new calf standing on shaky legs.
Let us cultivate gratitude by taking “notice” of the “little” things all around us.
“Some people live their lives in an endless poverty, always looking past the wealth of the moment to the riches that might lay beyond. Others live their lives in endless wealth, always striking deep into the riches of the moment, and assuming that riches beyond will come as they may.” ~Dan Wilt
Tip #2 – Thank Someone Today – Out Loud
To thank someone means to show appreciation and gratitude for the act of kindness they have shown us.
- Someone holding the door open for us.
- The person bagging our groceries at checkout.
- The mailman bringing the mail or a package to our door.
Tip #3 – Thank Someone Today – In Writing
Writing a note of thanks shows the gift-giver you truly appreciate their thoughtfulness. Our thank you note also gives a little something back – value, appreciation, and joy. Everyone enjoys receiving a “real” note in their mailbox.
Tip #4 – Thank the Lord – Count Your Blessings
In our prayer time, we can give thanks to the Lord for His Presence. We can thank Him for the many ways He has provided for us (food, shelter, and clothing). We can thank Him for the “desires of our heart” which we have experienced (sensing His nearness; seeing a rainbow in the sky after a terrible storm or the death of a loved one which reminds us of His promises; the return of a prodigal child; answered prayer of health to one who was sick; a dream come true).
We can thank the Lord for the pain we have endured because we recognize the inner strength and growth which are the fruit of our perseverance through trials. Gratitude is such an important trait to develop as it brings hope which can blossom into joy.
There are endless ways we can thank the Lord for Who He is, for the way He ministers to our heart, and for what He has done for us or others. It is so important to our spiritual, mental and emotional well-being to count our blessings.
Tip #5 – Sow Seeds in Others
We can sow seeds of gratitude and thankfulness by giving to others.
- We can leave a large tip for our waiter or grocery delivery person.
- We can sweep the neighbors walk or carry their misplaced newspaper at their doorstep.
- We can welcome a new neighbor with a plate of cookies or visit a shut-in.
- We can give a friendly smile and wave to our neighbors as we pass them each day.
We can recognize the gift others are doing and encourage them. Many jobs go unnoticed and without thanks. We can change this practice!
When my sister-in-law was taking care of my mother-in-law, we thanked her during our weekly phone call. We also thanked her by periodically sending her flowers and notes of cheer. When we visited from out-of-town, we acknowledged her labor of love, asked for ways in which we could support her physically (doing honey-do’s) and emotionally (providing a listening ear).
Grateful Hearts Bear Fruit
Gratefulness will overflow from our hearts to our mouth.
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings fort what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings fort what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” ~Luke 6:45 NASB
Let us live with a heart of appreciation. Let our hearts overflow into our mouths with words of encouragement and let us find small acts of kindness to brighten another’s day.
Let us choose to cultivate a grateful heart through keeping a gratitude journal, thanking someone out loud and in writing, thanking the Lord, and sowing seeds of kindness into those we come into contact each day. We are blessed to be a blessing!
New American Standard Bible 1995 (NASB 1995), copyright 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.
Wilt, Dan. Cultivating a Grateful Heart. Retrieved October 24, 2022, from Cultivating A Grateful Heart | DanWilt.com
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