GRATITUDE 8 August 2011
My talk today is on Gratitude.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia on the internet, has a lot of information about gratitude. It defines Gratitude, thankfulness, gratefulness, or appreciation as a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.
I'll read you a portion of what Wikipedia says about gratitude: Quote: Gratitude is an emotion that occurs after people receive help, depending on how they interpret the situation. Specifically, gratitude is experienced if people perceive the help they receive as (a) valuable to them, (b) costly to their benefactor, and (c) given by the benefactor with benevolent intentions (rather than ulterior motives)"
Gratitude is not the same as indebtedness. While both emotions occur following help, indebtedness occurs when a person perceives that they are under an obligation to make some repayment of compensation for the aid.
Gratitude is viewed as a prized human trait in Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu traditions. Worship with gratitude to God is a common theme in those religions and the concept of gratitude can be found all through religious texts, teachings, and traditions. For this reason, it is one of the most common emotions that religions aim to stimulate and maintain in followers and is regarded as a universal religious sentiment.
In Judaism, gratitude is an essential part of the act of worship and a part of every aspect of a worshiper’s life. According to the Hebrew belief, all things come from God and because of this, gratitude is extremely important to the followers of Judaism. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with the idea of gratitude. Two examples included in the psalms are: Ps. 30:12; “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever,” and Ps. 9:1 “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart”.
Gratitude has been said to mold and shape the entire Christian life. Martin Luther referred to gratitude as “The basic Christian attitude” and today it is still referred to as “the heart of the gospel.”
Gratitude in Christianity is an acknowledgment of God’s generosity that inspires Christians to shape their own thoughts and actions around such ideals. Instead of simply a sentimental feeling, Christian gratitude is regarded as a virtue that shapes not only emotions and thoughts but actions and deeds.
The Islamic book, The Quran, is filled with the idea of gratitude. Islam encourages its followers to be grateful and express thanks to God in all circumstances. Islamic teaching emphasizes the idea that those who are grateful will be rewarded with great pleasures. A traditional Islamic saying states that, “The first who will be summoned to paradise are those who have praised God in every circumstance” The prophet Mohammad also said, “Gratitude for the abundance you have received is the best insurance that the abundance will continue.” Many practices of the Islamic faith also encourage gratitude. The Pillar of Islam calling for daily prayer encourages believers to pray to God five times a day in order to thank him for his goodness. The pillar of fasting during the month of Ramadan is for the purpose of putting the believer in a state of gratitude. – Endquote
On lds.org, I found gratitude defined as "a feeling of appreciation and thankfulness for blessings or benefits we have received.”
As we cultivate a grateful attitude, we are more likely to be happy and spiritually strong. We should regularly express our gratitude to God for the blessings He gives us and to others for the kind acts they do for us.
In (D&C 78:19) The Lord has promised, “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious”. All things include both good and bad. We should be grateful for our bad experiences because, hopefully, we will learn from them.
Gratitude is an uplifting, exalting attitude. People are generally happier when they have gratitude in their hearts. We cannot be bitter, resentful, or mean-spirited when we are grateful.
We should be thankful for the wonderful blessings that are ours and for the tremendous opportunities we have. We can be thankful to our parents, family, friends, and teachers. We should express appreciation to everyone who has assisted us in any way.
We should thank our Heavenly Father for His goodness to us by acknowledging His hand in all things, thanking Him for all that He gives us, keeping His commandments, and serving others. We should especially thank Him for His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, for the Savior's great example, for His teachings, for His outreaching hand to lift and help, for His infinite Atonement.
Dr. Vaughn E. Worthen, Associate Director, Counseling and Career Center, Brigham Young University, speaking on The Value of Experiencing and Expressing Gratitude, said: Quote – Experiencing and expressing gratitude can help all of us -- whatever our situation -- lead fuller, richer lives.
Gratitude is a positive experience that comes from recognizing gifts or blessings and feeling thankful. It is also an attitude, a way of perceiving life, in which individuals are willing to receive and acknowledge the beneficial actions of others on their behalf.
Gratitude is also a habit that can be cultivated, causing one to focus on the blessings of life.
Gratitude has been extolled as a virtue in nearly every culture throughout time. It is a core element of many religions and is central to Christianity. Both ancient and modern prophets have recognized and taught the importance of gratitude.
Scriptures counsel us to “give thanks” in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and to arise daily with a heart “full of thanks unto God” (Alma 37:37).
In (D&C 59:21), we are warned: “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments”.
Church leaders recognize and continually teach the importance of gratitude.
President Thomas S. Monson spoke of the power of gratitude when he stated, Quote – “We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude.” Endquote
Dr. Vaughn E. Worthen continued, saying: Quote: Grateful people tend to generate more positive memories, reminding them of the good in their lives. Those with higher levels of gratitude are viewed as more empathetic and supportive, more forgiving, and more likely to assist others. Grateful people also report feeling less envious and more generous with their possessions.
Gratitude also helps in coping with adversity. Those who practice it in times of adversity are more likely to seek and find a “silver lining” in their experiences. Endquote
Dr. Worthen also gave these nine ideas for recognizing blessings and expressing thanks. Quote: 1 Keep a Gratitude Journal Record daily or several times a week three to five blessings or “tender mercies” you have felt or experienced, such as good health, a positive relationship with someone, improvements, or lessons learned. Focus on describing the experiences, including recording your thoughts and emotions about them, rather than merely cataloging them or analyzing them. Your purpose is to relive and savor those experiences, encouraging you to experience them more often.
2 Make a Gratitude Visit Think about someone who has been kind or has done something for you whom you have never properly thanked. Consider, for example, parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, coaches, and employers. Write that person a gratitude letter, being specific about the details of the kindness toward you and how it affected you. If possible, deliver it in person, sharing the contents and expressing your appreciation. Tell the person how and what you are doing now. This approach will not only enhance your own feelings of gratitude but it will also encourage the people you visit to continue in beneficial service to others, knowing that the service is gratefully received.
3 Create a Gratitude Catalog In addition to the journal described above, make a comprehensive list of all your blessings, many of which might also have appeared in your journal. After listing any of the obvious blessings that you may enjoy—such as health, family members, and the gospel—shift to “smaller” blessings, such as running water, electricity, flowers, and so forth. As part of this exercise, try to remember blessings that you didn’t previously recognize as blessings. For example, pain is a signal that something needs attention, perhaps in order to save a life. A hard experience can teach us patience and wisdom. A wrong committed by another toward us can teach us forgiveness.
4 Eliminate Ungrateful Thoughts Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wisely counseled, Quote: – “No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse.” – Endquote. Identify and list your complaining and ungrateful thoughts, and replace them with grateful thoughts and problem-solving strategies. We are prone to be more grateful when we recall how others have contributed to our success and happiness and when we focus on positive action rather than passive complaining.
5 Express Prayers of Gratitude Regularly dedicate an entire prayer to your expressions of gratitude. Be specific, go beyond the obvious. See how exhaustive you can be. Discover the truth in the line - - - - “And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
6 Train Yourself to Use Gratitude Language Make a habit of writing letters of appreciation. Say thank you frequently to your loved ones and also to cashiers, postal workers, and others who serve you in any capacity. As you interact with community and civil servants and workers, consider writing a letter of commendation to their supervisors, praising their work and expressing your appreciation.
7 Recognize That Things Could Be Worse Think of situations you are glad you don’t experience, such as famine, war, or debilitating illness. Think of circumstances you would not want to experience. Be grateful your life is not more difficult as you consciously work to improve it. Demonstrate your gratitude to the Lord by doing whatever you can to assist those less fortunate than you.
8 Enjoy the Journey As you set goals and strive to meet them, remind yourself of your progress even if you have not yet met them. For example, if your goal is to lose 25 pounds, celebrate the 10 you have lost by noting and reminding yourself of health improvements: lower blood pressure, greater energy, stronger muscles, more flexibility. If your goal is to complete reading the Book of Mormon this year, remind yourself of the many spiritual moments you experience, for example, – as you read the magnificent sermon of King Benjamin.
9 Learn the Art of Being Content In Philippians 4:11, Paul declared, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content”. In 1 Timothy 6:6, He further taught, “But godliness with contentment is great gain”. It is tempting to complain and murmur when life is challenging and things don’t appear to be working out as we wish. We learn from Nephi in his great afflictions on his journey: “I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions” (1 Nephi 18:16). The people of Ammon “praised God even in the very act of perishing under the sword” (Alma 24:23). The act of thanking and praising has great power to help us endure and is one of the surest methods for increasing happiness. It is also a way to define our relationship with God, from whom all blessings flow. God reminded the Israelites that He gave them “great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, and houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not, when thou shalt have eaten and be full; then beware lest thou forget the Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:10–12).
He has similarly blessed us. When we recognize His hand in all things we naturally desire to express thanks and praise. We realize that He knows more than we do, that He doesn’t relish our suffering, and that in the eternal balance we are still in His debt. If we consider our blessings, we come to realize that if we were blessed on the scale of our best efforts, we would enjoy far less than what we already enjoy.
In Faith Precedes the Miracle published in 1972, President Kimball said this about our need to express appreciation to our Heavenly Father: Quote – “Too often we take blessings for granted, like the sun, the air, health, and opportunity. Or we accept favors, honors, and privileges day after day … , without a word of thanks. We would thank the person who gives us a seat in the bus, the person who offers a ride, the friend who picks up the check after dinner, the person who does the baby-sitting, or the boy who cuts our lawn, but do we express gratitude to Him who gives us all?”
During the 1974 Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden Area Conference, Elder Howard W. Hunter also stressed our need to thank our Heavenly Father for all the blessings that He gives to us: Quote:
“Of the ten lepers who were healed, only one returned to express appreciation. This must have been a disappointment to the Master, but there are many who receive blessings, many who are endowed with good things in life, yet never take the time or go to the effort to show gratitude to the benefactor or express appreciation to God. Happiness and joy from blessings are never complete until there is a deep feeling of gratitude within oneself which moves an expression of appreciation”
It is significant that even the Savior expressed gratitude to the Father for His blessings, see 3 Nephi 19:20, and 28.
We have all experienced times when our focus is on what we lack rather than on our blessings. In the Book of Mormon (Alma 34:38) we are told to “live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which [God] doth bestow upon you.”
Regardless of our circumstances, each of us has much for which to be grateful if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings.
During the October 2010 General Conference President Thomas S. Monson talking about The Divine Gift of Gratitude said: Quote – "...it is my prayer that in addition to all else for which we are grateful, we may ever reflect our gratitude for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His glorious gospel provides answers to life’s greatest questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do our spirits go when we die? That gospel brings to those who live in darkness the light of divine truth.
He taught us how to pray. He taught us how to live. He taught us how to die. His life is a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved.
Ultimately, He stood alone. Some Apostles doubted; one betrayed Him. The Roman soldiers pierced His side. The angry mob took His life. There yet rings from Golgotha’s hill His compassionate words: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Who was this “man of sorrows, … acquainted with grief”? “Who is this King of glory,” this Lord of lords? He is our Master. He is our Savior. He is the Son of God. He is the Author of Our Salvation. He beckons, “Follow me.” He instructs, “Go, and do thou likewise.” He pleads, “Keep my commandments.”
Let us follow Him. Let us emulate His example. Let us obey His words. By so doing, we give to Him the divine gift of gratitude." Endquote
GOD has always been active in my life – even if I didn't know it at the time. He has protected me and guided me all through the years. I have not always heeded His guidance and have made grave mistakes by not listening. I pray that we all will hear and heed His whisperings now and in the future.
I know Heavenly Father chose Joseph Smith to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ in this dispensation, and I sustain President Thomas S. Monson as the living prophet, seer and revelator.
Like Tiny Tim, in Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol”, I ask Heavenly Father to bless us, everyone.
I leave this with you in the name of JESUS CHRIST. AMEN