Archive for the ‘gifts’ Tag

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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