One of the questions we are most often asked is: “How can I give thanks for this horrible situation I am experiencing?” It may be a health challenge, a money shortage, a job-related issue, a relationship difficulty, or any other rough situation that comes with this life experience. Both the confusion and the answer lie in a short but powerful scripture from I Thessalonians 5:18 which says, quite simply, “In everything give thanks.” People often confuse this verse to mean they are expected to be thankful for anything that happens, even when it is devastating! Nothing could be further from the Truth. The Truth rests in a shift from thanks-giving to thanks-living.
The operative word of this little verse is the word ‘in.’ It does not say ‘for‘ everything give thanks. There’s a world of difference between ‘in’ and ‘for.’ Giving thanks for everything is out of sync with Truth principles. The Truth principle expressed in I Thessalonians invites us to give thanks in all things.
What do you think we should give thanks for?
Giving thanks for the good things in life certainly makes sense. However, should we also give thanks for the ‘bad’ things that happen to us? Should we be thankful for hard times? Does it make sense to be thankful for health challenges like cancer, diabetes, heart trouble, dementia, or meningitis B?
Is it in alignment with principle to be thankful for losing your home as a result of a fire, tornado, sinkhole, typhoon? Does it make sense to be grateful for an automobile accident, or one of your children catching the flu, or losing your job?
Being thankful for a house fire, or an accident, or disease is error thinking at its most debilitating level of spiritual blindness. In case you didn’t catch that, we said: Being thankful for a house fire, an accident, or disease is error thinking at its most debilitating level of spiritual blindness.
It’s being out of sync, out to lunch, and out of line with Truth principles, common sense, and, well, sanity itself. Thanking misfortune for coming into your life is giving misfortune power it doesn’t deserve. And it certainly isn’t the essence of thanksliving.
How would you feel about hearing a machinist who cut two of his fingers off on a job accident say, “Oh, I just cut two of my fingers off. I’m so grateful!” Or what if an equestrian falls off her horse and suffers a back injury which paralyzes her, and she says, “I’m glad I’m paralyzed from the neck down. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.” How often have you heard someone say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?”
All of these instances are examples of people assigning too much power to something outside of them.
It’s not what happens to us that makes us stronger,
it’s how we respond to what happens to us that makes us stronger,
more creative, more resolute, more determined to move beyond
our circumstances. The point of power is within us.
Thanks-living is not a new concept. For centuries it has been a focus of spirituality, religion, and philosophy. More recently, thanks-living has captured the interest of researchers in the field of positive psychology. Social scientists like Martin Seligman, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Robert Emmons, Michael McCullough, and Kelera Kotobalavu, have conducted compelling research on the beneficial effects of appreciativeness, gratitude, and thankfulness.
“Gratitude is many things to many people,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. “It is wonder and appreciation,” she continues, “it is looking at the bright side of a setback; it is fathoming abundance; it is thanking someone in your life; it is counting your blessings. It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is coping; it is present-oriented. Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, avarice, hostility, worry, and irritation.”
Giving thanks for a gift you have received, and giving thanks for the Thanksgiving Holidays you are about to enjoy, and thanking someone for opening the door for you are all positive, life-affirming demonstrations of gratitude.
Our Thanksliving message is to give thanks IN all things – but not FOR all things, especially things which may be harmful or hurtful to you or someone else.
For example, giving thanks for an illness which compromises your health or giving thanks for the downturn in the economy which results in your losing your home or your job, or giving thanks for a greatly reduced financial portfolio—all attribute too much importance to the external event itself.
Thanks-living is an inside-out process.
Instead of giving thanks for an illness itself which has slowed you down, give thanks in that situation for your courage, determination, and family support in facing the illness head-on.
Instead of giving thanks for the downturn in the economy, give thanks in that situation for your creativity in finding the solutions you need because you listened to the ‘still small voice.’
We can be curators of our own souls. That statement implies an inner priesthood and a deepening spirituality. To see thanks-living in this way means we must make spirituality a more serious part of our lives.
A deepening of soul begins when we can take to heart our own human frailties and find in them the raw material, the alchemical prima materia, for our own soul work.
And soul work unfolds in the crucible of life experience because we are spiritual beings having a human experience. And human experiences have their human challenges. And human challenges expose both our human frailties, strengths, and sensibilities.
And it’s these strengths and sensibilities that make all the difference. It is our strengths and sensibilities that are the foundation of a life of gratitude. It is our strengths and sensibilities that define the depth of our thanks-living.
So, give thanks in all things, not for all things. Stand firm in your thanks-living so you can master the art of living thankfully.
We affirm your continued happiness, health, and wholeness.Research: Emmons, R., THANKS! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 2007. Kotobalavu, K., The power of gratitude, The Fiji Times, May 12,2013. Lyubomirsky, S., The How of Happiness, Penguin Books, New York, 2007. Seligman, Martin Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, New York: Free Press, 2011.