Three steps to a better YOU!
Five ways to make broccoli fun! Ten movies we can’t wait to see! Everybody’s got a list. Everybody wants to make you a better person, help you to lead a better life. Well, I’ve got a list too. Two words to a better life. That’s it. Hard to believe isn’t it? These two words are so powerful they will make you 10-25% happier with your life. Even happier than if you won a million dollars in the lottery. It’s true. So what two words are they? “Thank you.”
But you can’t just say it without meaning it.
Actual GRATITUDE is important. People know the difference between a sincere “thank you” and an insincere one. If someone says, “Thanks for nothing,” you can bet they probably don’t mean it. The word “thank” is actually a derivative of the verb “think” and originally meant, “I will remember what you did for me.” In other languages the meaning is even stronger. The French merci is the parent of our own word for “mercy.” When we say “thanks” in French, what we are really doing is placing ourselves at the mercy of the other person as if to say, “I am in your debt.” It’s that kind of attitude we need behind our gratitude, an actual expression of indebtedness. People appreciate feeling appreciated. In the workplace, saying “thank you” increases productivity among employees by as much as 50% in one study. They’ve also found that generosity is contagious. The more we pass around the appreciation the more others do it for one another. And appreciated people find greater job satisfaction, which just makes common sense. In married couples, these two simple words can save your marriage. They found that couples that regularly say “thank you” were less likely to be affected by arguments between them. Gratitude protects a marriage when the going gets tough. Those that felt appreciated by their spouse, valued by their spouse, and acknowledged their spouse when they did something nice built up a reserve of good feelings that protected them when conflict arose.
Expressing gratitude not only helps the other person, but helps you, too!
One study at Harvard asked participants to journal about things they were grateful for over a 10-week period and had another group journal things that irritated them over the same amount of time. As you can probably guess, the gratitude group were more optimistic, felt better about life, exercised more, and went to the doctor less than the others. What was most astounding to me was another study done that showed over a six-month period you would be happier recording your blessings for five minutes a day than winning more than a million dollars in the lottery. In that moment, winning the lottery seems pretty awesome, but in just six months your happiness increase is barely up 4% to what it was before, compared to 10% by people who simply journal their thanksgiving – 2.5 times happier than winning the lottery. Want to know other ways that gratitude makes your life better? People like you more. You are generally healthier. It can boost your career. It reduces materialism and increases your spirituality. It improves our sleep. We live longer lives. It makes us feel good. It helps us to relax. And those are just SOME of the benefits of being grateful.
If you still aren’t convinced why you should express gratitude more often, I’ll go Biblical on you!
That’s right, gratitude is Biblical and while there are a great many examples of being grateful in the Bible (both from Jesus and to Jesus) probably the best and most explicit example is the story of the ten lepers. During this time, you have to remember medicine wasn’t what it is today. Most people thought that leprosy was highly contagious so they banished anyone who had it to outside the city limits. There were all kinds of rules lepers had to obey. Not only were they not allowed in the city, but they couldn’t even stand within six feet of another human being and if the wind was blowing they had to stay at least 150 feet away. The only condition considered more unclean than leprosy was death. So when Jesus comes along, a group of lepers see him and beg him for help.
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” – Luke 17:11-18
Ten men had leprosy. Ten men were healed. But only one came back.
What’s even more amazing, the one was a Samaritan. Samaritans were among the most despised people in Israel. The only thing worse than having leprosy was to be a Samaritan with leprosy. But it was the Samaritan who came back to say, “thank you” to Jesus. It was such a big deal that the Bible even specifically points it out. Verse 16, “He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan (emphasis mine).” Of all the people healed, he was probably the one most likely NOT to give thanks. Samaritans were not treated well by the Jewish people. Out of resentment or spite or just plain anger, he would have the most reason not to come back, but he wanted to make sure Jesus knew how much he appreciated it.
When we read this, it’s easy to imagine the other nine were a really ungrateful bunch.
But they were probably very, very grateful. Imagine having this horrible disease that most people never get cured of, never getting to see your family and friends again, and then suddenly being healed! If it were you, you’d probably be ecstatic! They might have been in such a rush after getting healed they took off to see the priest without thinking about it. The only way a leper was allowed back into the community was by showing himself to the priest and being declared healed. That’s why Jesus tells them to go find the priest, so they can come back and see their family and friends. So given all of that, we can understand if it slipped their mind. But it shouldn’t have. It only took the Samaritan a moment to give thanks to God for the healing. Are you more like the nine or the one? Do you make time to tell others how grateful you are? Do you even realize the effort others put out for you? Or do you sometimes take the people in your life for granted?
Given the scientific evidence, you probably take people for granted.
At least a little. A 2012 poll showed we had a “gratitude gap.” They found that 90% of people were grateful for their family and 87% were grateful for their friends, but only 52% of women and only 44% of men expressed gratitude on a regular basis. So why do we do that? Why aren’t we more free with our gratitude? Part of it is because we have a self-serving bias. When things go bad, we like to blame other people, but when things go well, we like to take credit for ourselves. Robert Emmons who is well known for his research on gratitude wrote, “Gratitude really goes against the self-serving bias because when we’re grateful, we give credit to other people for our success.” Gratitude also goes against our need for control because it recognizes that there are outside forces at work helping us to achieve success. Emmons wrote something really insightful about this. He said, “I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others.”
Gratitude IS Biblical!
Even Martin Luther, the guy who was the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation, wrote that gratitude is the “basic Christian attitude” and it is still referred to as “the heart of the Gospel.” There are tons and tons of passages where Jesus gives thanks to God or where others give thanks to Jesus or to God. There are plenty of examples to show us not only do we need to be grateful to one another, but especially toward God. It is that very aspect of humility implicit in gratitude that we need in our lives more than ever. It points us toward God, the one to whom we should all be grateful and reminds us that we are not the sole source of blessing in our lives.
I’m a big believer in thank you notes.
I think it’s a great reminder to myself that I have much to be grateful for. I believe in giving thanks publically when it’s appropriate. And I believe strongly that by doing so, we honor God because gratitude points us to him and not ourselves. What I’d like you to do is to picture yourself as Cuba Gooding, Jr. when he won the award for Best Supporting Actor in Jerry Maguire. If you were around in 1997, you can’t help but remember this speech. It had to be one of the most memorable “thank you” speeches ever. I’d like you to come up with your own Oscar acceptance speech and think about the people in your life who would be on that list. Then I want you to take the Thank You card you got when you came into worship today and pick one of those people and write them a note to say “thanks.” And not just any old generic “thanks” but a powerful thank you. Think of something specific you are grateful for, acknowledge the cost or difficulty or sacrifice the person gave to do that specific thing, and then let them know why it was important to you. You’ll find that this “power thank you” will go a long way. Giving thanks isn’t just a nice thing to do, it makes the world a better place. Remember just these two simple words can make you even happier than you are now. Thanks for listening. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Andy does a great job talking about this in his sermon “I Owe Who” found on the Your Move With Andy Stanley podcast 11/12/2016