How to Have a Thankful Heart

How to Have a Thankful Heart

Do you have a thankful heart? What is a thankful heart? Every November we read, see, and hear people talking about Thanksgiving, being thankful, counting our blessings, but what does that really mean? Is being thankful confined to the month of Thanksgiving? Or have we learned to have a thankful attitude all the time? Does it really even matter?

Can we be thankful when there are more bills to pay than there is money to pay them? Are we thankful when dinner is burning, the kids are screaming, and we haven’t had enough sleep in days? Is thankfulness something we “turn on” in November and ignore the rest of the year? Let’s take a look at true thankfulness and see why it matters.

We Should Always Have a Thankful Heart

A thankful heart should be our normal state. Thankfulness is not something we should just adopt in November of each year; it should be our default attitude, our modus operandi. Being thankful, all the time is really a heart and attitude matter. So, perhaps we need to change our attitudes about life, about realities, about our expectations.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.”

Maya Angelou

Have a Thankful Heart because We Have Innumerable Blessings

Too often we look around us and see our problems. Hey, we all have problems, both big and small. But we must learn to look beyond our difficulties and see that we have more blessings than problems. Did you get out of bed today? Great! A blessing. Are your kids complaining today? Or arguing? They are still blessings, incredible gifts!

I sometimes complain about the views out my windows – I see the neighbors’ houses and cars. No mountains, lakes, or forests in my window views. But I have good neighbors. And there are still trees to see out my windows. And, in the summertime, there are flowers, butterflies, birds. I can see the beauty of the clouds and the sunsets from my window. (Forget sunrises! Those are not on my current radar! They happen way too early!)

We all have so many blessings in our lives, even though those blessings may seem buried under our problems. Dig out those blessings, think about them instead of dwelling on the problems, and be thankful!

Have a Thankful Heart because Gratitude Helps our Attitude

Did you ever stop to think that when we focus on our blessings it is hard to maintain a bad attitude? We all have days when life gets us down, when we are focused on all the things that go wrong, when we feel like everything and everyone is against us. What do we do? Too often we start to complain, whine, and generally have a bad attitude about life.

Focus instead on the blessings, the good things we experience every day. Even though it sounds trite, we should count our many blessings. And when we do that, our attitude begins to change. Gratitude helps our attitude. Gratitude changes our attitude! We should never allow ourselves to wallow in self-pity.

Take action! Start naming your blessings and see if they don’t outweigh at least some of your problems. If we change our focus from our problems to our blessings, that gratitude can shape a better attitude.

A Thankful Heart is a Good Example to our Children

Many times, we teach our children more by our attitudes and our actions than by what we say. If we talk about being thankful but don’t demonstrate a thankful heart, our children will pick up on that. Why should they be thankful or show gratitude when mom always has a bad attitude or is always complaining? Truly having a thankful heart will teach your children the gratitude attitude.

None of us want our children to walk around with a sense of entitlement, the sense that the world owes them everything. No, we want them to be kind to others, gracious, respectful. And much of that comes from a thankful heart. A grateful attitude teaches our children to be thankful for what they have, for what others do for them, for opportunities.

We teach that to our children by example. Our speech, our attitudes, our relationships with others – all these teach our children. So our speech should be kind, gracious, and thankful. Our attitudes should demonstrate thankful hearts, our relationships should show respect and gratitude for other people. Teach thankfulness by your actions and attitudes.

“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.”

Johannes A. Gaertner

What Are You Thankful For?

So, what are you thankful for? Sure, we always say we are thankful for health, family, friends, home, etc. But can we move beyond that? Can we look deeper, further, and find more to be thankful for than just “surface” blessings? May I suggest a few things?

Health

Many of us do not have perfect health. Too many of us have issues that cause us concern. Yet we can still be thankful, in spite of current or ongoing health difficulties.

  •             Our problems are not worse than they are
  •             We can still function in some ways, even if those ways are limited
  •             Continuous medical advancements to help us
  •             Caring and compassionate caregivers/medical staff/doctors
  •             Prayers of others on our behalf
  •             Access to medical care

Physical Surroundings

We are thankful for our homes, but then we turn around and complain about the condition of our homes. Maybe they are a mess, or in need of repair, or constantly (forever!) in remodel/reconstruction mode. But we can still have thankful hearts.

  •             Running water
  •             A roof over our heads
  •             Heat
  •             Electricity
  •             Relative ease and comfort
  •             Access to food
  •             Plenty of clothing, even if it is not the latest style

Family and Friends

We say we are thankful for the people close to us, but do we demonstrate that to others around us? Or are we quick to complain or gossip about our family and friends? To me, that does not show that we are thankful for them. And when we are truly thankful for them we should name them in our thanks and in our prayers. Think about those for whom we should show thankful hearts:

  •             Spouse
  •             Children
  •             In-laws
  •             Siblings
  •             Grandparents
  •             Neighbors
  •             Friends

Spiritual Blessings

Do you ever stop and count your spiritual blessings? Perhaps I should have put this first in the list – without considering our spiritual blessings it is more difficult to be truly thankful for everything else. So, what are some of these spiritual blessings? Let me list just a few:

  •             Eternal salvation (John 3:16, I John 5:13)
  •             Direct access to God (Hebrews 4:15-16, Hebrews 10:19-22)
  •             Peace (John 14:27, Philippians 4:7)
  •             Joy (Nehemiah 8:10, Philippians 4:4, I Peter 1:8)
  •             Word of God (Bible) (Psalm 19:7-11, Psalm 119:160, 171-172)
  •             The Faithfulness of God (Lamentation 3:22-23, II Timothy 2:13, I Corinthians 1:9)
  •             Comfort (II Corinthians 1:3-4)
  •             Presence of God (Joshua 1:5, 9, Hebrews 13:5)

“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.”

Gerald Good

Thankfulness Should Be All the Time, Not Just Thanksgiving

So, we think about being thankful during the Thanksgiving season, but, too often, as we get back into the chaos that is the upcoming Christmas season and the regular routines of normal life, we forget about this gratefulness. We forget to keep our thankful hearts. May I challenge you today to continue your attitude of gratitude, to keep thankfulness in your hearts all throughout the year? Maintain your grateful attitude and you will be an example to your children and a blessing and encouragement to all those around you.

You might enjoy this post from last Thanksgiving:

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving

Have a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving!

Carol Rhine Rhine Home School Services

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