Raise your hand if you’re interested in a happier, healthier, more content life? What about less worry and anxiety? Or how about more energy and optimism?
Ooooh. OOOooh. OOOOH. Pick me.
According to multiple studies, the gateway to improved psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being is gratitude. Gratitude flows from an increased focused on the good things in life. It’s paying attention to and celebrating the positive and redemptive parts of humanity.
Sounds easy enough, right? Maybe for you. For me, not so much. I’m bad at gratitude, really bad.
Fortunately, gratitude isn’t a fixed trait. You can improve and grow in gratitude. This growth starts by reframing your perspective. Grateful people do things differently. These things – call them traits, values, guiding principles – are mostly universal.
Here are some ways grateful people see the world differently.
1. They see life as a gift, not a birthright.
When I think about gratitude, I think about my kids. Life is a gift to them, all of it. Whether it’s an afternoon in the backyard or Christmas morning, their lives overflow with untainted, unrestrained joy and excitement.
Every day, when I walk through the door, they embrace me like I just returned from a year-long pilgrimage. My boys don’t love me because I buy them stuff. They love me because I’m their dad. They don’t worry about meaningless stuff like I do. They aren’t bored with life, either.
Meanwhile, I reminded of Jesus when he said you must change and become like a child to find heaven. Grateful people see the world through the eyes of a child.
2. They love the man in the mirror.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What thoughts immediately come to mind? Good? Bad? What narratives have you created for yourself? And how many of those are positive?
How you see yourself is how you see the world.
I’m convinced a life of gratitude is largely a pipe dream without self-compassion. How you see yourself is how you see the world. Unless you see beauty in the mirror, you won’t see it in your neighbor. Until you show yourself grace, especially when you screw up, you won’t extend it to the person who hurts you. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Do you love yourself?
3. They realize every rose has a thorn.
Gratitude isn’t “Hakuna Matata.” Life is a mix of sun-soaked days and stormy ones, with the occasional tornado or hurricane. Grateful people don’t allow storms to shipwreck their faith. In a culture of affluence and comfort, this point is especially important.
There’s no such thing as rainbows without rain or roses without thorns, it seems.
Even love, the greatest of all virtues, comes with a cross. The beauty of Christianity, what makes gratitude possible, I believe, is that our narrative ends with a resurrection, not a crucifixion. We accept and endure the thorns because we believe the rose is coming. We rejoice in suffering and loss because love wins.
Every grateful person finds meaning through tragedy and hope through despair.
4. They love people and use things (not the other way around).
Matthew Kelly nails this in his book Rhythm of Life:
“People were made to be loved, and things were made to be used. Your problems, my problems, and indeed all the world’s problems come from our misunderstanding of these two simple principles.”
People, even those closest to us, can become a means to some end – a business deal, sexual pleasure, an Instagram-worthy family.
Grateful people always resist this temptation.
5. They thank outside the box.
When you thank outside the box everything is a source of gratitude, even your greatest disappointments and setbacks. A cancer diagnosis isn’t a time to play the woe is me card, but an opportunity to ask “Where is God?”. The jerk-face boss isn’t a source of anger and frustration but an opportunity to grow in patience and love.
I’m not saying this is easy. It most certainly is not. This is advanced-level gratitude for sure.
People who thank outside the box never forget those in beginner courses. They disciple and mentor, challenge and encourage. They have an undying hope in humanity, especially in the next generation.
6. They create worlds with their words.
Words are the building block of life, the cornerstone of creation (Gen. 1:3). With our words, we create worlds.
Grateful people breathe life into others, and they do this often. Hope, joy, peace, and love are the natural resources that form their world.
A heart of gratitude always gives. Who are you thankful for today? Who hasn’t received a word of hope from you in a while? Maybe your spouse, your children, your parents, or your friends. Maybe your favorite barista or the homeless guy you pass every day on the way to the office?
What kind of world are you creating?
It’s your turn. What are some traits of grateful people? Leave a comment below.
Grace and peace, friends. Amen!
Frank is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside church. He is also a husband, father and Jesus-follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee.