I don’t know about you, but I’m really tired of all the negativity and complaining–much of it oozing from my own heart.
This year has brought about many situations and events to be critical of. And it’s so easy to turn a healthy discipline of critical thinking into mere complaining. Certainly, we can’t pretend the issues of our world don’t exist or just speak toxic positivity over them. But we have to watch how far down the critical road we allow ourselves to walk.
2020 has been a perfect set up for some of the darkness of our own hearts to be on full display. A shift in our culture, society, and churches has taken place. And in many cases, it hasn’t been for the best. The tension surrounding us has caused us to care less for the heart and soul of others and to care more about stating the “facts” of a situation, regardless of the harm that brings.
What we read, listen to, and expel from our mouths is covered in negativity and downright complaints. This is an exhausting spiral. It’s incredibly draining to ourselves, as well as those around us.
So how do we stop the cycle? How do we climb out of the pit that continues to suck us back in day after day?
Going into hiding isn’t the answer. I’ve tried that the last few weeks and it hasn’t helped much. We can’t just avoid what’s happening, because as Christians we are called to be light and salt into the world. In order to do that, we have to actually know what’s happening in the world and be able to engage the world where they are.
One of the greatest ways to combat a heart of negativity and complaining is to discipline yourself to have a heart of gratitude. I know many of us become a bit more mindful and intentional about being thankful during the holidays. But this year has proved we need to be more disciplined in this area daily, and not just seasonally.
When I talk about a heart of gratitude I mean more than the canned statements like, “I’m so grateful I got to wake up today and that I have air in my lungs.” Maybe I just have some real maturing to do in this area, but these kinds of responses feel a bit disingenuous and unattainable to me. I want to discipline myself to develop a heart of gratitude in ways that impact my life in the day-to-day and reposition my entire way of doing life.
I’m still new to this journey of intentionally developing a lifestyle of gratitude. But I think there are some tangible ways we can balance our complaining and negativity with thankfulness and gratitude.
Here are 3.
1. Confess Your Ingratitude
It’s probably safe to say that no one sets out to be ungrateful. And yet, we all know someone (hmm, maybe ourselves) who is never grateful. Gratitude has to be developed and learned.
Recently I gifted a pretty exciting gift to a small child. And though she didn’t know what it was, she knew a gift was coming. I was really looking forward to seeing her overjoyed excitement that can only come from a surprised child. But that didn’t happen. As soon as I walked in the door she said, “Where’s my present?”
Her parents were mortified and I was so bummed. She opened the gift and that was the end of it. There was no thank you, no hug, no shock and amazement, no gratitude. After much coaching from her parents, she came back to thank me. Gratitude has to be taught. She felt entitled to her gift. And to our shame, we’re not much different.
Part of disciplining yourself to be a person of gratitude is to be aware of the ways in which you’re lacking in this area. This doesn’t mean you have to beat yourself up and dwell on these matters too long. But to move towards becoming more grateful it’s good to confess the ways in which you aren’t.
Colossians 3:12-13 calls us to seek forgiveness for those we have a complaint against. If you find yourself complaining about the decisions of your leaders, coworkers, or family members, then I encourage you to confess that to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. It really is amazing how your heart begins to change when you are aware of how often ingratitude pours from your heart.In order to move toward becoming more grateful, you need to confess the ways in which you currently aren't. Click To Tweet
2. Verbally Share Your Gratitude For Others
A large part of Jesus’ ministry was signs and wonders. It’s easy to overlook all of the unique stories of Jesus performing miracles and healing people. Because there are so many. But their placement in scripture is about more than building Jesus’ resume of miracles. Each story has a point.
There’s one in particular that stands out to me as I’ve been ever so slowly reading through the book of Luke. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem when he runs into ten lepers who ask for him to heal them. He does, which is what I expected. One turns back to literally give a shout of praise for his healing, which is reasonably expected as well.
But then Jesus asks where the other nine lepers are. Only one came back to give praise and thanks to Jesus for his healing. One out of ten! And to top it off, he was the foreigner. It’s like the rest of them expected healing because they were Jewish. It was the one who didn’t feel entitled to be healed who was most grateful.
There are many times when we feel entitled for people to do things for us. So when they don’t, we’re quick to be upset. And when they do, we still aren’t quick to show our gratitude. Whether your expectation of another person is aptly placed or not, you should still be grateful. It’s even better to verbally express that gratefulness.
This is a practice my husband and I began in our marriage, but have quickly fallen away from. We used to periodically say things throughout the day like, “I appreciate you” or “thanks for doing the dishes.” It’s a practice we should really bring back. Expressing your gratitude for someone is always a nice thing to hear.
Developing a heart of gratitude means you have to stop to appreciate present moments. So the next time someone shows care towards you, even in the smallest of ways, remember to verbally share how grateful you are. Try to be specific in what you are grateful for. Verbalize it in that moment. Developing these patterns in your life will go a long way in readjusting your heart.There are many times when we feel entitled for people to do things for us. So when they don't, we're quick to be upset. And when they do, we still aren't quick to show our gratitude. Click To Tweet
3. Choose Five Things You’re Grateful For Each Day
This may seem like a silly thing to add to your already long list of things to do for the day. But it really is a practical way to discipline yourself to be grateful.
In the book of Colossians, Paul writes to a church of believers who are being bombarded by false teaching. He’s writing to encourage them and remind them of their faith in Jesus. He doesn’t want them to be swept away by the enticing and flashy teaching of the false prophets.
And really what Paul is doing is reminding them about who they are in Jesus.
Here’s what he says.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)
Part of what came out of their faith in Jesus was an abundance of thankfulness. Their faith was marked by gratitude.
What’s coming out of your faith in Jesus? Is it an abundance of negativity, criticism, and complaining? This isn’t a question to shame you, but rather to have you look internally and see what needs to be adjusted.
We should be like the church of Colossae when they first came to faith. Paul is telling them, remember who you were when you were centered on Jesus. Remember the kinds of things that were pouring out of you.
We can easily apply the same message to our own lives. Remember who you were when you first came to Jesus. Remember the overwhelming gratitude that flooded your heart. Come back to that.
A great way to revive that moment in your faith is to actually list five things you’re grateful for each day. You can do this during your prayer time or another time during your day. Allow yourself to call to mind what blessings God has put in your life that day.
The heart of gratitude is the heart centered on Jesus.
Not only does a heart of gratitude make you a better person, but it’s a marker of a person who is centered on Jesus. When your mind and heart are focused on the good things God has given you, the negativity and criticism seem less and less.
Let’s be Christians who are engaged with our world but don’t sink into the despair and lostness of it.
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