“The most important attitude that we will ever nurture, that we will ever exhibit, is the attitude of thanksgiving.” – Gary D. Stratman

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – Bible

Hopefully as you read this you have good memories of celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends this past week.

There is something unique about giving thanks. It makes us feel good whether we are giving or receiving.

Wrapped up intrinsically in the giving of thanks is the idea of gratitude, but they are not exactly the same.

We can get in the habit of saying thanks without any meaning behind it. It’s just an afterthought.

In fact, it sometimes may be used sarcastically when someone does something to or for us that we don’t really appreciate, e.g. “thanks but no thanks.”

In other words, “thanks” is an act, sometimes with no real value attached.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is an attitude, a feeling. It’s kind of that internal drive behind the external behavior.

What makes relationships enjoyable is when thanks are given with right attitude.

Whether we are giving thanks out of an attitude of gratitude, or receiving thanks from someone with that attitude, we are blessed.

Brett and Kate McKay wrote on article entitled “Cultivate Your Gratitude” in which they assert that “a lack of gratitude is often at the root of a variety of the ills that plague relationships. When a wife or husband never shows appreciation for their spouse, the embers of their love are soon extinguished.”

When gratitude for what the spouse does in the relationship is replaced by apathy or the idea that they are just doing their job, the marriage is in trouble.

Nobody likes to be taken for granted. We want to be appreciated for what we do.

In addition we want to be appreciated for who we are. This appreciation gives us the feeling that we bring value to the relationship.

We aren’t just recognized because we can do something in particular, but because our existence matters.

One of the barriers to giving thanks with real gratitude is the concept of humility. Being grateful to someone is acknowledging that they can do something for us.

Oftentimes our pride gets in the way. We think we can do it ourselves, and hence if someone does something for us, we are not only ungrateful, but we are resentful.

During this season of giving and receiving our hearts must continue to cultivate that attitude of gratitude, and to express it through meaningful thanksgiving.

The attitude and act of thanksgiving does at least two things for us. It makes us aware of the existence of others.

They matter to us both for what they do and who they are. They give value to our lives. Then it humbles us.

We recognize that someone else has the capability to enrich our lives.

So in addition to the casual thanks for the gifts we receive this Christmas season, let’s get serious about expressing our gratitude to the many people who enrich our lives.

There is a poignant story that is worth repeating. It tells of a man who was with a group of friends discussing things they were thankful for.

He was reminded of a teacher who had made a contribution to his life many years ago. At the urging of his friends, and his own conscience, he wrote her a letter of thanks. He received the following response.

“My Dear Willie – I am now an old lady in my 80s, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely and seemingly like the last leaf of fall left behind. You will be interested to know, Willie, that I taught school for 50 years and, in all that time, yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered my lonely old heart as nothing has cheered me in many years.”

The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director of FAMCO, can be reached at 640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com or www.aikenfamco.com.