Rethinking Thankfulness   4 comments

As I wrote yesterday, I intend to chronicle my daily smiles, but let’s not confuse that with thanksgiving.  My focus is joie de vivre for me and those who share life with me, while thanksgiving, by contrast, is often seen as moral obligation.  So it is driven by duty rather than delight, aimed at someone else’s benefit rather than my own (except to exercise my virtue).  As a default response, giving thanks will actually weaken relationships rather than enhance them if it pulls us from gracious into legalistic connections.

At a human level, when I share my joy with the one who gifts me, she is drawn into my life and experience.  She connects with me and delights in my joy.  The focus is on a shared enjoyment of the gift rather than a shared esteem of the giver and her virtue.  When I approach thanks as duty, it distances me from the generous one and devalues her generosity down to a trade.  Then my gratitude becomes her due, even though paying it doesn’t reduce my debt for her favors.  And with big favors,  she becomes the benefactor, and I turn into the charity case.  Her virtue and strength is showcased, but only my lack and dependence. Mutuality devolves into hierarchy.

Even when God is the munificent one, I think it far better to share with Him my joy and invite Him into it rather than try to pay Him with gratitude, as though His presents come with price tags.  Of course, I can be self-absorbed, focused only on the gift and ignoring the one who gave it, a childish mistake (although God is not offended or hurt by this as we are).  The real misfortune in such a response is not the unfairness of it, but the loneliness that results.  We were created for community, for connection, for sharing our hearts, so isolating our attention on the gift desiccates our relationships.  The greatest good and core purpose of giving and receiving is to draw us into close communion through mutual care.

For a perfect illustration of the joy of shared celebration, see Susan’s comment.


Posted January 11, 2014 by janathangrace in thoughts

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4 responses to “Rethinking Thankfulness

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  1. I really love this perspective! I want to share with you my delight in enjoying the thoughts that come into and out of your head. This one makes me smile inside and look around for the sweet hand of God somewhere around me today.

  2. I love your perspective Kent! You always seem to find a silver lining somewhere in this journey of life. We are all blessed to know you and appreciate your deep thoughts and ways of sharing them with others. Can’t wait to hear about your smile journal! I had a great one last night… we took my son and two friends to the movie for JP’s 14th birthday. On the way there, his friends gave him a card that they had made out of construction paper, duck/gorrilla tape and magic markers. They had included a “stolen” itunes card from his big brother (with permission from his mom), and a little plastic pink pig that these boys picked up on the side of the road while walking the dog! You should have heard these boys laughing over that little package! It was priceless! They even named the pig “Bernard the pocket pig”. Listening to boys laugh about silly things is definitely a smile and memory maker! They always find something funny out of the little things in life =). Have a great day Kent!

    Susan Gordon Williams

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