Another Word for Joy: Lesson 3 – Gratitude

New Incentive for Continuing Education (NICE) presents:

Another Word for Joy: Lesson 3

Once upon a time, I took an Appreciation of Music class. Maybe because it seemed like an easy elective. I had very low expectations. I didn’t think that I might learn something that would stay with me for decades.

This is what I learned: When you pay attention, there is a lot going on. When you pay attention, you can hear things you never would have noticed. And the music you are listening to becomes more complicated, more artistic. More amazing.

Gratitude is appreciation. It is paying attention to things that exist, to things that happen. And in paying attention, we find that life gets more amazing.

Welcome to Lesson 3: Grrrrrrrrratitude.

I used to be very skeptical about gratitude. How could gratitude make you happy? Wasn’t it just being passive and being thankful for things that would happen anyway?

An attitude of gratitude can help you find something to appreciate even in hard times. Maybe you are going through a divorce, or you have lost a loved one, and it seems like nothing is going right… and then all the traffic lights are green on the way to a meeting, or that song you love plays on the radio. When you take a moment to notice the small wonders, you are lifting ever so slightly the burdens of life.

Gratitude is an upward movement, a freeing, a loosening. it doesn’t bring you down or bind you, it lifts.

Homework #1: Thank You

Carry a pen and paper or a smart phone with you as you go about your day. When you notice something that you can be grateful for, write a note that starts with “Thank you for…”. Your thank yous can be for small things like smiles or working pens, or big things like important events or life-changing moments. List at least five things that have given you a lift.

In this lesson, your goal is to pay attention and develop an appreciation for the things and people around you. Your life is like a symphony, and you have the best seat in the house.

Another aspect of gratitude that took a while for me to understand is the link between giving and gratitude. Many people tithe as part of their religious practices, and as an outsider, this seemed like a heavy burden to put on your parishioners.

It was only when I understood that tithing is a form of gratitude that it became clear why people are willing to tithe. It is a way of saying that you are grateful for the blessings you have already received.

And in that lovely way that life has of balancing things out, gratitude is often associated with blessings to come. Giving and receiving.

Which brings us to the next question: How do we show our gratitude? Sometimes we feel gratitude without expressing it.

Gratitude can be expressed in many ways. Maybe it is through tithing, or simply saying “thank you”. Perhaps you have found a different way of showing gratitude – a way to give or share that expresses your thankfulness for what you have experienced.

Homework #2: What is it Worth?

Just as an exercise, let’s think about the good things in our lives, and try to pin a value on them. We have gratitude because there are things and people we cannot control that make our lives better. It may seem like the world runs on money, but we cannot buy the most precious moments. How much is a smile worth? How much would you pay for a beautiful fall day? What is it worth to have a loved one returned safely from battle? Think about the things you are grateful for and imagine that you are presented with a bill for them… how would that feel? Just make some notes on your thoughts and reaction to this exercise.

I really wanted to avoid this phrase, but an “attitude of gratitude” is really the best way to say it. Paying attention to the blessings of life, no matter how small, can make each day better. When we are building a foundation of Joy, gratitude is one of our best tools.

Bonus #1

Here is a post on the “koan of gratitude”. Enjoy.

For Lesson 3 credit, you must either post your Homework answers as a comment or send them to me in an e-mail.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
— Melody Beattie

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One Response to Another Word for Joy: Lesson 3 – Gratitude

  1. Margot says:

    My husband didn’t understand tithing either. Until he saw all of the blessing we were receiving and how faithful God is to those who show their gratitude. We were never short on money, always having “enough”. Not rich. But somehow we always were able to pay the bills on time, or early, and still have some fun. He got on board quickly and we haven’t looked back.
    We’ve been going through a tougher time, starting with the 2008 economic crisis right up to recently. Nothing bad but nothing too good. I believe that God has been . . . testing or correcting . . . lessons needed to be learned. We still felt blessed, but I was having a crisis of joylessness.
    Homework #1 – I thank God for my shower almost every day. We moved in 2 years ago and I LOVE my shower. It is bigger that those in the new homes we looked at, and the shower head is up high and has the perfect spray. The water is a great temperature and easy to adjust, not like our old house. It is a great shower! Does it need some cosmetic work? Yes. But it does the job oh boy. I am thankful.

    I also am thankful for the sunsets I see, as I get out of work late and sit in traffic. Focus on the sunset and it really makes a difference in my attitude for the ride home.

    I am thankful that, although the drive seems longer now, I always get to ride through some wooded areas on the way to and from my house. I enjoy the peacefulness there, and have had a chance to see some deer.

    I am thankful that I have a pretty house. It is a little selfish I know, but my new house is pretty and I take joy in the fact that God found us the perfect home AND it is pretty. We looked for years and I saw some real ugly possibilities that we might have lived in. This one is just pretty.

    I see us coming out of this time of whatever. We’ve had a few Up moments in the past few months that are starting to feel like getting out of that hole or dip or whatever. I think God is turning it around and I look forward to all he is doing in our lives. (And you know this blog is one of the good things.)

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