Intentional Gratitude

Gratitude comes easy when life is good, love is easy, and family relationships running smooth. But, when life becomes rushed, love stressed, and family members disappointing, gratitude becomes more difficult. During such times, we must intentionally become attentive of our family and make a purposeful effort to show them gratitude. Why make the effort? Let me share three of the many reasons gratitude is worth the effort, even when times are difficult.


Gratitude protects us from temptation. One author suggests that a lack of gratitude laid the foundation for Adam and Eve to sin in the Garden of Eden. Could it be that a lack of gratitude for the abundant blessings available in the Garden allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve with the one tree they were told to avoid? Perhaps an expression of gratitude for the extravagant abundance available in the Garden would have staved off the temptation to eat the “forbidden” fruit.


I find this principle true in marriages as well. When a couple stops expressing gratitude for one another, they lay the foundation for a potential affair. The one who does not express appreciation for their spouse may find themselves tempted to partake of the “forbidden fruit” that deceptively appears “greener” than the fruit in their own house. And, the one that feels unappreciated may find themselves drawn to someone outside the marriage who expresses gratitude and appreciation for them. Gratitude protects us from temptation.


Gratitude reduces stress and gives us courage. A lack of gratitude leaves us dissatisfied with our past. It leads to grumbling and complaining. Perhaps Israel wandered the wilderness for forty years partly in response to a lack of gratitude. After all, they had experienced God’s protection during the plagues in Egypt, His deliverance from Egypt, and His miraculous power as they crossed the Red Sea. They survived on God’s provision of food and water as well. In spite of these opportunities to give thanks, they grumbled and complained. They focused on what they did not have rather than focusing on God’s miraculous provision. In their midst of grumbling, they sent a reconnaissance mission into the Promise Land. Most of the spies returned fearful of the Promise Land. Their lack of gratitude for God’s miraculous provision led to self-induced fear, mistrust, and a future with no vision. As a result, they spent 40 years wandering the wilderness.


It comes as no surprise that when a person grumbles, they feel more stress. Grumbling focuses on dissatisfaction and worry. Complainers feed off others who complain. Grumbling escalates and the focus on the worst case scenario grows stronger, fear increases, courage falls away. Gratitude, on the other hand, sets our focus on those things that have gone well and those blessings we have received. It lends itself to a peaceful acceptance of what we have today. It grants us courage, based on the gracious joys of yesterday, to accomplish our vision of tomorrow. As an unknown author stated, “gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”


Gratitude keeps love alive and growing. Without gratitude, love fades. When we feel stressed, irritated, or rushed, we often project those feelings onto those around us. These are the times when we do not feel like expressing gratitude. Instead, we take people and things for granted. Our interactions become more harsh, hurried, or even rude. I have met many children, teens, and young adults who misbehave in an effort to elicit some expression of emotion from others. If they can not elicit the joy of gratitude and appreciation, they will accept the connection of irritated anger and frustration. As this continues, love fades and attention-seeking misbehavior grows. Lest you think this only relates to children, consider what happens in your marriage if you feel that your spouse does not appreciate you. Love fades and attention seeking behavior grows.


Gratitude, on the other hand, expresses that you value the other person enough to attend to and appreciate them. In fact, gratitude becomes a gift of appreciation. It sparks the embers of affection and fans the flame of love. It pleases the heart and endears us to one another. Gratitude creates the foundation of joy today that becomes a vision tomorrow. Gratitude keeps love alive and growing.


So, how can we remain grateful when we are frustrated, stressed, disappointed, or feeling rushed? Here are a few ways to intentionally make gratitude a part of your family life:

  1. Volunteer as a family to help those less fortunate.
  2. Take time to recall and list as many qualities as you can think of that you have appreciated about each family member in the past.
  3. Make a daily list of three things you appreciate about each family member.
  4. Make a weekly list of 3-5 things each family member has done to help strengthen family relationships.
  5. Make a point of sharing one item from your list with each family member each day.


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