Gratitude is a way of life that is expressed physically and verbally throughout our day.
I am grateful to my Dad, I really am, but I’ve got a little problem, how do I let him know that I’m grateful? There is great variety in the specific ways that we can express our gratitude but in all that variability I think we will find that there are several basic categories into which our expressions of gratitude will fall. We will consider our words, both those that are verbally spoken and those that are written. These are probably the most commonly thought of ways to express gratitude, however, there are several other ways that we will consider as well. Gift giving is one. Our physical body which includes the way we carry ourselves and the expression on our face is also important. Another is attitude and the atmosphere that we each carry with us. No matter where we go or what we do, by our very presence we are telling those around us something, even if we never say a word our demeanor and attitude is speaking for us. The question is, what are we saying?
Verbally spoken words are so very, very important because the people we love need to hear our voice, they need to know that we care. Tell them that you love them, that you are grateful to God that they are part of your life. Tell them how glad you are to see them, how much you enjoy their company. Tell them how they have encouraged and stimulated you, thank them for the things they do, let them hear your voice. It will mean so much to them, it will encourage them to keep going. Find one person today and tell him thank you for something.
Spoken words are only one form of communicating; written words are also just as important. Quite often I miss opportunities to verbally express my gratitude, either I am too busy, or not observant enough at the time or too shy or self-conscious to use my opportunity. Whatever the reason, it is never too late to say “thank you” because we can always write that person a note. Unless you have personally received a note of gratitude yourself you will have no idea how cherished it will be, how long it will be kept or how many times it will be re-read. Written notes of encouragement and gratitude are very important, work on writing one such note each month.
Giving a gift is another way of showing gratitude. A small gift which has been carefully chosen and presented speaks volumes to the recipient. It takes time and energy to think of the right gift and then to locate and present it. The one to whom you give the gift with know this and that you love them and desire to encourage them. Your gift will touch their heart and help them see more clearly that they are needed and appreciated. Find someone special that you want to thank and take the time to find a small but nice gift to present to them. They will treasure your love.
Our physical bodies can be a very real expression of gratitude. Just think about it, walk with your body erect, your shoulders thrown back, your head up and a smile on your face. This stance says I’m glad God made me the way He did, I am rejoicing in today, I have nothing to hide. What a contrast this is to the person who walks hunched over, head down with a scowl on his face! Now a smile, what does it say? When I smile at you I am saying, without words, ‘you’re alright, I like you, I’m glad to see you today’. The eyes can express the same things. If I’m a million miles away mulling over my own problems my eyes will be blank, I’m not there. I don’t even see you, you are not important to me. If, however, I am right there present, not only are my eyes full of life but I will interact with you with my eyes. The silent message that my eyes are communicating is, ‘you are important to me and I want you to succeed’. Isn’t that gratitude? Physical touch is also very important. The clasp of the hand, a firm embrace, a light touch on the shoulder or the arm, they each speak volumes. They say ‘I love you, I care about you’. They can say other things too; your eyes and your words will tell the other party what exactly that physical touch is saying. Begin to reach outside of your comfort zone and touch other people’s lives. Do it verbally, do it physically, do it today! (A note of caution here, be careful about any physical contact with individuals outside your family who are of opposite gender. The Lord Jesus Christ is holy and pure; His children must also be holy and pure.)
Attitude is another amazing way that gratitude can be expressed. A glad, cheerful, loving attitude without a single word being spoken will tell a person something far different than an insincere, forced or obligated “thank you” could communicate. Our attitude tells more than our words ever could, much more. The heart attitude is probably the most important, crucial aspect of gratitude because our demeanor and attitude is a direct reflection of our heart and gratitude, in order for it to be true gratitude, must always come straight from the heart. People read us like they read a book, our attitude tells them what we believe and think about God, about ourselves and about others. This is why it is so important that our heart is right because our attitude will of necessity change the meaning of our words. I can thank my grandmother at two different times for coming to visit and even though I use the same words both times I will communicate something different to her each time. If I am discouraged, and stressed out about something and preoccupied with myself my message will be very different than if I am cheerful and rejoicing in the Lord and sincerely glad to see her. Who we are in our heart and our mind, more than anything else determines what other people see when they look at us, do they see a grateful person or do they see a disillusioned person. Gratitude is a way of life so in order for it to be our way of life it must stem from our innermost being.
When my father was a boy he would go, from time to time, to visit his well loved Grandmother and would stay with her and Grandpa on the farm for several days. Now there was no doubt in anyone’s mind but that Grandma loved her grandchildren. Her entire person radiated love, she would talk with him and listen to him, they would work together and go places together. Over the years several small but carefully treasured gifts found their way into his possession through her loving hands. When the day’s work was over and Grandpa had gone to bed the two of them would stay up until midnight laughing and talking and playing games together. I don’t suppose that she ever took him aside and said ‘Craig, I am so glad that you are my grandson, I am grateful that you…’ she didn’t need to say it, you see, everything she said and did and was radiated that truth to my Dad. Her actions said it for her! Words are only one aspect of gratitude because gratitude is an attitude that is expressed verbally and physically throughout our day. We want gratitude to be a spontaneous part of our lives, something that springs up out of our hearts and kind of bubbles over to everyone who is around us. So as you go through your day and discover something to be grateful for let it out, tell the other party. It sets the whole tone of your day; it will make you happy because gratitude is a way of life that brings joy to you and to everyone with whom you come in contact.
Our desire should be to combine several of these aspects of gratitude and use them in conjunction whenever it is possible and appropriate. The warm smile, the clasping of their hand, the cheerful, glad attitude, the gift and the words, together these will make powerful combinations. But the most important one, as always, is the heart! Yes, our attitude sets the tone for everything else we do and say and are. The springs of life flow from our heart so each of us who desires to become truly grateful needs to start with the heart, once our heart is grateful the other things will come more easily.