Today’s post was written by Natalie Crowson.
With Thanksgiving close at hand we can all come up with plenty of things we’re thankful for. Family, friends, employment, sunsets, the beach, campfires, and of course, chocolate. These are good things and it is right to pause and recognize what wonderful gifts they are. It’s even more fitting to pause and thank God directly for these blessings and provisions. But is counting our blessings the same thing as being thankful? It’s actually just one piece of the puzzle.
To have an attitude of thankfulness means that we know who we are in relation to God and in relation to each other. In essence, we should not think of ourselves too highly or too lowly. In either extreme, the root problem is pride since in both instances we’re thinking of ourselves through the wrong lens.
Thinking too highly of ourselves
When we’re living in the first camp (thinking of ourselves too highly), we may not be obviously displaying ingratitude to those around us. But our pride keeps us clinging to the illusion that we’re self-sufficient beings. We make our own destiny, take care of our own problems, no help needed from anyone, thank you very much. When this is our attitude, we may accept help and acts of kindness from others but deep down we don’t think we need them. So while “thank you” may be on our lips, “I had it all under control” is seething in our hearts.
Thinking too lowly of ourselves
On the flip side, when we think of ourselves too negatively we are still exhibiting a form of pride because we are focused so deeply on ourselves. For example, we cannot accept compliments from others because we think we know better than they do. Our thoughts might run along the lines of “They didn’t really mean what they said, they were just being nice. I know better.” That’s pride! We are not thinking of who we are in relation to God and we’re certainly not giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. So we wallow in our faults and undeserving nature rather than rejoice in the richness of God’s love as displayed in Christ on the cross.
As C.S. Lewis notes in Mere Christianity, it’s hard to look up to God when you’re always looking down (either on others or ourselves). So how can we live each day with an attitude of thankfulness? We cannot be truly thankful without first recognizing our need and confessing that God has met the need. If we take time to look up, we’ll see that God has closed the gap by sending Jesus Christ to us. If our daily starting point is the gospel, we cannot help but be a thankful people.