Is there any benefit to being thankful? If so, what? What do we learn in the process of being thankful? Our thanksgiving demonstrates a humble and tender spirit. Therefore, without any forethought or manipulation, we blessed the giver and are blessed again by our gratitude.
Gratitude produces in us a sense of well-being, life satisfaction and a view of life as something to appreciate. Todd Kashdan, from George Mason University and his colleagues found that gratitude lowered levels of aggressive behavior as well as inhibited destructive interpersonal behavior. The research also showed that a spirit of ingratitude corrodes human relationships.
Gratitude is not indebtedness. Indebtedness indicates that the recipient believes the giver expects something in return. The recipient feels obligated to pay back for whatever he or she receives and in this way the gift contains a component of shame. “Indebtedness may relate to shame, a self-focused emotion and therefore may have a complicated and sometime negative relationship with humility”.
Gratitude on the other hand, changes the focus from the self to something other than the self. It is this redirection that changes our attitude of entitlement (life owes me something) to a spirit of humility (I’m grateful for what I have received). Philippians 2:3-4 is an example of this kind of humility that not only is concerned with personal interest, but also looks out for the interest of others. It doesn’t obliterate personal needs as something evil or sinful, but at the same time considers the needs of others with equal importance.
Philippians 2:3-4 reads, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your interests, but also for the interests of others.”
In the 2nd book of Peter we are instructed to “clothe ourselves with a spirit of humility”. This is not to indicate a preoccupation with personal weaknesses or to negate individual strength; but it is to accept those strengths and weaknesses, as part of the person we are. Yet we have come to believe that deprecating or belittling ourselves is a sign of our humility and to own our strengths is viewed as being conceited. Many of us feel uncomfortable with a compliment and either trivialize it or feel the need to pay it back immediately by complimenting the giver. Humble people do not seek to be in the limelight, but neither do they have the need to hide themselves.
“Theorists posit that humility is indicated by an accurate self-concept, balanced awareness of strengths and weaknesses, lack of arrogance, and sense of others’ worth. For example, humble people recognize the strengths and value of others… Furthermore, the construct of humility is closer to an affirmed and secure identity than a self-disparaging one. We propose that the opposite of humility is not a positive or negative self-view, but rather high self-focus.”
Research indicates that humility predicts ethical business practice, cooperation, helping and generosity as well as less troublesome employees and leaders that model a more positive behavior and empower those they lead.
“Humility can become a faithful tutor — if we let it. For under humility’s tutelage, a profound gratefulness is birthed for all the blessings life has to bestow, even if these blessings may sometimes be mixed with sadness or grief”.
Just like when our children or grandchildren express their gratitude to us for some simple thing we have done for them and we feel so proud, not because we needed the thanks, but because their expression of thanksgiving revels the tenderness of their hearts. In cultivating gratitude, they avoid falling into the exaggerated sense of deservingness that marks a narcissistic and entitlement disposition.
By the same token, it is not that God needs our thanksgiving, but in doing so we humbly recognize our dependency on Him as well as others.
Elodia Flynn L.C.S.W.
i.Kruse, Elliot, Chancellor, Joseph, M. Ruberton, Peter, and Sonja Lyubomirsky: An Upward Spiral Between Gratitude and Humility.
iiii. Press-Enterprise Editorial. Published: Nov. 25, 2015 Updated: 4:12 p.m. “Roots of gratitude found in humility”