It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday, we call it. And let’s cut to the chase – what is it that wars the most against us having an ongoing attitude of Thanksgiving? Not just the holiday, but the every-day? I asked the same question to a small group of adults recently and received some good, honest responses. But there was one that stood out to me the most. “Making comparisons,” she said. And she was so right.
Comparisons kill our attitude of gratitude like nothing else. If we are constantly comparing what we have (house, clothes, car, career success, health, likes on Facebook, kid’s grades/talents/opportunities) with what others have/do, we will inevitably create a void in our soul that even God Himself won’t fill. In short, we become double blinded. We will become people whose eyes increasingly grow darkened from looking for the things we don’t have, and consequently become unable to see the blessings of God that occur all around us that we do have.
We can’t ignore reality. There will always be people around us who seem to have more, do more, etc. But the truth of the matter is that we could intentionally strand ourselves alone on a deserted island, far, far away from people who are “succeeding” in life, and we would still have the problem of ingratitude. Why?
Because it’s not an “others” problem. It’s an us problem. Somewhere along the way we’ve bought into the idea that we deserve more than what we have. We may have even shook hands with a lie that says the people around us have some sort of angle on God that causes Him to bless them more than He does us (as if God cares more about them). Sound familiar? Could it be that God’s love and care for you is the same as for them but that they may have created better opportunities for themselves by the choices they made? Or could it be that they haven’t had to experience the type of unfairness or degree of difficult circumstances you have been called to walk through? It is easy to conclude that God’s favor is on those who appear to have it all or appear to be succeeding on every level. But have you considered the idea that God’s favor on your life may mean suffering or living without certain amenities that others enjoy? Could it be that the way God is choosing to bring glory to Himself through your life is by allowing you to be exactly where you are? Just some things to consider.
Yet, the question remains – what do we do about this struggle with ingratitude that raises its ugly head once Thanksgiving Day is officially over? Here is at least one possible solution that has unlimited benefits to helping curb our problem. We can ask God for the power to replace our self-serving attitude with that of a servant’s attitude. Stay with me here. In our culture, when we think of serving, we tend to think in terms of spending time at the local soup kitchen. Running a table at a fund raiser. Helping greet at church. And these are all good things. But true servanthood is found at the level of our souls. The motivation that fuels our decision-making. It becomes who we are, not just what we do.
The idea is simple. Replacing our self-centeredness with the desire to put others and their needs first, lived out day after day, helps eliminate the contamination of a me-first mentality and causes the comparisons game to no longer matter. In fact, if we will intentionally do this as a lifestyle, we won’t have time to look around and meditate on the things we don’t have. Ironically, giving of our time, resources, and abilities as benefits to others has a way of reminding us of what we do have and regenerates our sense of gratitude.
Another great outcome is that unlike our comparisons games that postpone our happiness and sense of contentment, we can immediately begin reaping the rewards of a servant’s mentality by asking questions like these: What does my spouse need the most from me today? What can I do to make them feel valued and cared for? In what ways can I be a presence in the lives of my children? Who needs my encouragement today at work? What can I do without applause that could really make a difference in someone else’s life?
This mentality is completely against our nature and will be a challenge as long as we are alive. This is because we spend an insurmountable amount of time and effort arranging for our own happiness. But the rewards of living an others-centered lifestyle are beyond anything we could gain from winning an illusional comparisons match up with someone we envy.
What I am implying here does not negate the fact that you may have some really significant needs waiting to be met yourself or that you have to try to ignore hardship you may be going through to the point that you can no longer feel. It simply means that making this shift in our daily routine has a way of curbing our bent to always have to have life our way, or always craving the life someone else is living.
Let’s begin today to translate Thanksgiving into Thanksliving and find a way to make a difference for someone else. I’ll leave you with a scripture I read this morning:
“May God give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NLT). Let the prompting begin!