Giving Thanks, the Essential Virtue of Happy Home
— Every home that serves God gives thanks constantly. When we have a positive mind, we become grateful for everything.
In 1990, Nelson Mandela was released after spending 27 years in prison for fighting against racism. People thought that he would look very old since he was 70 years old. However, he surprised people as he came out of prison, looking healthy and spirited. A reporter asked him the secret to his health, and he answered:
“I always gave thanks to God in prison. I thanked God, looking up at the sky. I gave thanks, looking down at the ground. I gave thanks, drinking water. I gave thanks while eating. I even gave thanks, working in a labor camp. I was able to stay healthy because I always gave thanks.”
A university student got third-degree burns all over her body in a car accident. She was pretty and lively, but that was all gone. She was lying on the bed with a bandage all over her body, unable to move even a single finger. She was in deep despair and felt like giving up her life. Even after she underwent over 30 operations and rehabs, she couldn’t turn her melted face back. But now, she is happy enough. This is the story of Lee Ji-seon, the author of the book, Ji-seon, I Love You.
Since she started off to go through an operation of cutting a knuckle on each finger, because all her finger bones were burnt except her thumb, she said she looked for a reason to give thanks. She was thankful that she could use chopsticks by using her left hand finger for it was slightly longer than the right hand; she was thankful that she could use her spoon by herself; she was thankful that she could button up her patient gown; and she was thankful that she could go up and down the stairs. She regained her life by giving thanks and she says, “Giving thanks is a habit which makes a miracle.”
They proved that thanksgiving guides us to a bright light like a rope that lifts us up when we hit the lowest point in our lives. Not only in dramatic situations but in case of most people who thank a lot in general, they usually live in harmony with other people, and don’t think that they are unfortunate. There is no communication problem in a family full of thankfulness. If a family believes in God, the members must be overflowing with thankfulness all the more. Why? Because that is God’s will.
Practice to Have a Good Habit of Giving Thanks
1. Should we give thanks only when things go well?
“When your teenage child talks back to you, it means that your child is still at home, not wandering about in the street. If you have taxes to pay, it means that you have a job. If there are a lot of dishes to wash after a party, it means that you spent a pleasant time with your friends. If you got awake early in the morning by a loud alarm, it means that you are alive.”
You don’t have to wait for some good things to happen to thank for. Many people think, ‘How can I be thankful when there is nothing to give thanks for?’ However, giving thanks doesn’t depend on how much or what special things you have, but on your mindset.
2. Positive thinking is the way to find what you’re thankful for
People who are critical, dissatisfied, and negative do not give thanks even when they are in a situation where they should give thanks. Just as we have to shine with a flashlight to see flowers and trees in a dark garden, we can find things to thank for when we shine on the world with a positive mindset.
When we have a positive mind, we can be thankful for even small things, and when we live with a thankful mind, we become happy. A positive mind, thankfulness, and happiness have a thread of connection. Seeing the same rose, some people complain about its thorns, whereas some other people are thankful that roses blossom from the stems with thorns. Who would be happier? Some people wake up in the morning and think on their way to work, ‘I have to go to work again. I’m sick of it,’ whereas some others are thankful that they have a job. It’s obvious whose footsteps must feel lighter and happier.
3. Nothing should be taken for granted
When we look around, we can find so many things that we can be thankful for. However, we miss our chances to give thanks because we take them for granted. If we take other people’s kindness or favor for granted, then of course it’s hard to be grateful. It is the same when we treat our family members. If there’s a family where the wife doesn’t appreciate her husband’s hard work, and a husband doesn’t appreciate his wife’s doing the housework, considering it as a matter of course, and their children don’t know how to appreciate their parents’ feeding them, buying them clothes, and supporting them for school, then they are unable to find happiness in their family.
4. There are different levels of thanks
Giving thanks itself is beautiful, but there are different levels of thanks: The first level of thanks is “conditional thanks”—“I’ll give thanks ‘only if’ something happens the way I want.” The second level of thanks is “thanks-because”—“to give thanks because something happened the way I wanted.” The third level, the highest level of thanks, is “thanks-in spite of”—“to give thanks regardless of reasons and conditions in spite of hard and difficult things.” Most people who overcame their adversities by giving thanks give the third level of thanks. If we wait until the situation gets better, the chance to give thanks might never come. It’s not easy to be thankful in difficult times, but as much as it’s hard, we can get greater benefits by giving thanks.
Thanksgiving Is Not a Noun, but a Verb
A bell is not a bell until someone rings it.
A song is not a song until someone sings it.
Love is not love until you express it.
A blessing is not a blessing until you give thanks for it.
It becomes a blessing when you give thanks for it.
Things shine more when they are accompanied by actions. Sometimes, we think just being thankful is enough without expressing it. However, thanksgiving can be more meaningful when it is expressed. Rather than just having a thankful mind, affection and trust can be built up when they are shared.
When someone shows a little bit of kindness, we easily express our thanks, but we often skip expressing our gratitude to our family members because we think that they will know how each other will feel. This is from thinking that our family is going to be always there for us. When we are thankful, we must express our thanks to our family. When we are thankful and express our thanks, we can gain a lot more things. We can please not only other people, but ourselves as well. Moreover, those who received thanks will try to do more things to please the ones who expressed thanks, and in this way, more and more things will happen to give thanks for. Therefore, the best benefactor for expressing thanks is the one who expresses thanks.
In the Bible, David received the best compliments and a lot of blessings by giving thanks to God. God said that he was the man after His own heart. Oprah Winfrey, a famous talk show host, said that her key to success is her thank-you diary. She checks what happened that day and writes all the things she wants to give thanks for in her note. Those things are not something big, but little things like seeing the blue sky, eating delicious food, being able to hold her anger, and so on. It is good to have a personal thank-you diary, but it can also be a way of communication if the whole family shares one thank-you diary.
Gandhi said that the amount of thanks equals the amount of happiness. Since thanks and happiness are proportional, while thankfulness piles up one by one, happiness gets piled up as well.
Power of Giving Thanks
By giving thanks, you gain many things, but you also lose many things. You lose stress, depression, fatigue, loneliness, anger, greed, concerns, worries, and so on, which bring negative effects on your bodies. Robert Emmons, Professor at University of California, did a ten-year research and proved that we can find a healthy and happy life by giving thanks. A group who wrote down five things to give thanks for every day was healthier, more positive, and had less level of depression and stress than the other group who didn’t.
Depression can take away people’s lives. The natural medicine for such depression is thanksgiving. It’s not too much to say that giving thanks has power to save people. People who always give thanks have ability to suppress their anger easily, because gratitude cannot co-exist with negative emotions.
If we compare ourselves with others, we become greedy, weary, worried, and angry when we do not meet our expectations. On the contrary, if we live a thankful life, being content with our reality, we can be free from all kinds of bad feelings that cause greed.
The Talmud says, “The wisest person in the world is one who learns, and the happiest person in the world is one who gives thanks.” There is also a saying that goes, “Happiness always comes in through the door of thanksgiving and goes out through the door of complaint.” Happiness accompanies thanksgiving. Let’s show our gratitude to the most precious people, our family members. Thanksgiving can never be too much. It’s always good to give thanks until they overflow.