What I am going to say may sound like exaggeration. It is.
But it is hyperbolic speech for hyperbolic reality. I exaggerate about grand things for to speak softly would be a lie. Follow me closely and hear what I say. I have only lived a few short years (25 this December) and the more I learn the more I am certain I do not know much surely. But the good Lord has seen fit to reveal one truth that I believe more and more firmly, though I can express it only imperfectly in words. It is the fundamental importance of an attitude of thanksgiving.
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” So says Meister Eckhart. This seems overly grand, overly simplistic, and exaggerated. I say it is understated. Let’s see if we can parse its meaning.
Before we begin, it is fitting to sing a hymn of thanksgiving to the Giver of gifts.
Let self-will (and her product) die!
— All ownership of life and limb!
And as we sing let us decry
His gifts, and give our selves to Him
Who gave us being, who gave us flesh,
Who gave us life and senses filled,
Who gave us thought, and gave the best
Gift creatures can receive: a will.
Who gave us fruit, and knowledge dear
Who gave us loving, gracious death,
Who gave us mind and ear to hear
When God himself had come to earth.
Who gives us faith, who gives new life
Who gives the gift of repentance;
Who makes us his own spotless wife
And teaches us obedience,
Who, having been the author
Of our faith (th’ old self having died)
Becomes our faith’s perfecter,
New selves in Christ being glorified.
First, since gratitude seems to be an attitude or emotion or sentiment, we shall look at the concept of “appropriate emotions.” Second, I shall attempt to give a brief definition of gratitude. Third, I shall attempt to contrast gratitude with its perfect opposite, a feeling or attitude of entitlement, and show how this is the root of all unhappiness, vice, and sin. Fourth, I shall relate gratitude to its constant companion, joy, and attempt to provide a glimpse of why both are rooted in the psychological fact of dependence. Fifth, I shall offer suggestions for moving towards a becoming a more grateful person by focusing on her roots: self-responsibility and optimism.