The other night I was watching Jimmy Fallon, and part of an interview jumped out to me. Jimmy had Terry Crews on his show. For those of you that don’t know, Terry is an actor who first became famous because of some strangely funny Old Spice commercials and has since become a well known movie actor as well.
On the show, he’s talking to Jimmy about break dancing (which is comical in of itself because he’s a huge muscular guy) and then Jimmy asks him where he gets all his energy. His answer? Gratitude.
Terry Crews is no expert on life, just like none of us really are, but I think he’s right about this. Giving thanks unlocks something within us. It breaks down walls and unleashes life.
Just type “the effects of gratitude” into Google and you get article after article about how it improves your social, psychological, physical, and spiritual health. Over and over again, studies show that gratitude opens us up to a better life.
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul says something similar to Terry. He says, “give thanks in all circumstances.” For Paul, giving thanks was key to the way he lived life. Paul was not living some extraordinarily fine life either. He was often thrown into prison, beaten, and persecuted. So to say “give thanks in all circumstances” carries a lot of punch coming from him.
So what’s Paul giving thanks for? For him thanksgiving is grounded in the assurance of God’s love. We often call this salvation, and for Paul, salvation wasn’t just a postmortem reality but an in-this-very-present-day kind of reality. No matter the circumstance, Paul could look around and give thanks for the blessing of God’s love and purpose in his life.
I think gratitude reminds us that every day is a gift. It reminds us that we are always connected to others for various reasons - that where we are today was due in part to the help, generosity, and goodness of others and God. And when we put on this lens, everything changes.
Not only that, but when gratitude is unleashed, generosity is right on its heels. I’ve heard that gratitude is the gateway to generosity, and if Terry Crews and all those articles are right, then this too would make sense.
We are more generous with our time to others.
We are more generous with our compliments.
We are more generous with money and resources.
So if Paul, Terry Crews, and all those articles are onto something, then gratitude is an art to be developed. Paul and Terry seem to be pointing to another important thing about gratitude. It’s not just about what I feel thankful for, but what I can find to be thankful for.
If I’m just waiting for the feeling of gratitude instead of looking for reasons to give gratitude, then I’m missing it. Again, Paul’s words remind us that gratitude is something we can always be seeking out in every circumstance.
I wonder what a little gratitude every day would unlock for me? Maybe my patience in Houston traffic would increase. Maybe my generosity to strangers on the street would increase. Maybe my love for my wife when I got home would be more caring. Maybe something I never dreamed of in the morning would become a reality because gratitude unlocked a hidden potential in me that day.
What might gratitude unleash in you?
Written by Mark
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.