Confession: Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to me. I can find the black-winged fly in the pristine white paint. I can sound like an old church organ, creaks and sighs and whines. I can make mental spreadsheets of disappointments like an accountant in a plaid tie.
Maybe I’m not the only one.
I have read about how our brains have a negativity bias. We look first for what’s wrong or a threat. This helps us survive. I am typing in a nicely lit, espresso-scented coffee shop. But should a zombie or deranged clown walk up to the counter and order a latte I would shift my attention immediately to this phenomenon.
What this means is that recognizing our blessings is learned behavior. A choice. And it’s one that takes some preparation. If we sit down at the turkey table next Thursday and expect to immediately get into a grateful mood we’re likely to be disappointed. Especially with the twins throwing peas and the dog barking and Uncle Erwin doing political commentary.
In an experiment, two groups of people were given a list of words. One had positive words and the other negative. They were then both given the exact same story about a man. A simple tale. When asked to describe this character afterward, can you guess which group was complimentary and which critical? It all depended on what they’d recently been thinking about.
In other words, we prime our minds by what we put into them. Our perspective on our experiences is, at least in part, predetermined. Perhaps Paul understood that when he said, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Php. 4:8).
And because of this, I’d like us to do a little experiment of our own: Let’s start giving thanks now so that we really are ready for Thanksgiving this year.
I’m sharing a quick and simple countdown that we can go through each day over at (in)courage! Will you join me?