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Thanksgiving Day, Not "Be Thankful" Day
By Don Hooser

Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday every November. Perhaps this is the appropriate season to wonder if there is a difference between being thankful and giving thanks.

hank you. Those two words are among the most important and appreciated in any language. He who does a good deed is often satisfied to hear "thank you" as his only reward. It's too bad the phrase is so underused.

Some say gratitude is the mother of all virtues. That makes sense. Gratitude--a grateful attitude--inspires other good attitudes. It's hard to have a bad attitude when you are feeling grateful.

Ingratitude is probably the most prevalent sin. It is easier to feel pity than appreciation. It seems easier to criticize than compliment. Griping, grumbling and being grouchy are just doing what comes naturally. They are part of our negative, self-centered nature.

Some people rarely say thank you. You wonder what holds them back. We should have developed the habit of expressing our gratitude by the time we were 3 years old.

Most people probably regard themselves as being properly thankful. If they really are full of thanks, that's wonderful. But thankfulness must be expressed to others to be worth much. Giving thanks is much better than just being thankful. Giving thanks is good for both parties, the giver and the receiver.

Thankfulness tends to be passive. Thanksgiving is active. Thanks are something that need to be given away--making everyone richer. Note that the national holiday Americans celebrate is called Thanksgiving Day, not "Be Thankful" Day.

Many Thanksgiving Day celebrations undoubtedly involve precious little thankfulness, much less giving thanks. For many the holiday has become known as Turkey Day, characterized more by gluttony than gratitude. Meanwhile people in poor, undeveloped countries look on the United States as incredibly rich and self-indulgent instead of thankful for its abundance, comforts and conveniences.

Thankfulness oriented outward

When people regard themselves as thankful, it often is more accurate to say they are merely glad about something. People often fail to give credit where it is due, or they give too much credit to themselves. The word thankful implies that someone else deserves credit and a "thank you."

For example, anyone could say, "I'm thankful I have a good job" and simply mean he is glad to have that job. How much better it would be to think of the many people throughout his life who helped prepare him to be qualified for that job. Even better would be for him to thank as many of those people as possible.

Merely being glad or "thankful" can be self-centered. Saying "thank you" is other-centered. Expressing gratitude is oriented outwardly. We should make it a habit to thank people. When we do, we are sure to make people happier.

Are you thankful for your education? Thank your parents and a whole host of teachers. Are you thankful for your freedoms? We owe much to our forefathers and statesmen. Are you thankful for your health? You can thank your parents for good genes and a healthful diet. You can thank your parents and a farmer or rancher. Are you thankful you have regular trash pickup? Thank your garbage man.

Concerning thanksgiving, wouldn't it be nice if companies had a bigger need for thank-you departments than they have for complaint departments?

The Bible encourages giving thanks

When it comes to the need to be thankful, the Bible emphasizes action over passivity. In the New King James Version of the Bible, the word thankful appears only three times, and unthankful appears only twice. The number of times both words are used is surprisingly small.

However, thanksgiving occurs 31 times, and the phrases give thanks or give You [God] thanks occur 43 times. The words thank and God occur in the same verse 15 times; thanks and God are used together 23 times; thank or thanks and Lord appear together 43 times.

The word praise implies a big thank-you given with an abundance of admiration and respect. The world would be a better place with more praise and less criticism. Children often require less punishment for misbehavior when there is plenty of praise for good behavior. If we praised our families and coworkers, our homes and workplaces would be far less tense and would experience more peace and productivity. We humans thrive and strive better under the warm sunshine of praise.

The Bible stresses that the greatest praise should go to God. Praise and God occur in the same verse 57 times, and praise and Lord occur together 97 times. Are you thankful for a beautiful day, a gorgeous rainbow, a spectacular sunset? Tell God about it! Thank the One who created it all!

We should be extremely grateful for all our benefits and blessings, and express it. Continually tell your family and friends how much you appreciate them. Say thank you to everyone who serves you in any way. Make it a habit to say thank you as often as you can find any reason to say it.

And on each Thanksgiving holiday, be sure to offer a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving to the great Creator God who is primarily responsible for the United States of America being a great nation with amazing abundance.

Let's make every day a day of giving thanks--a thanksgiving day. I'm going to try harder, and I hope you'll join me. Come on. You can say it: Thank you.

Thanks for listening.

Copyright 2000 by United Church of God, an International Association All rights reserved.

Related Information:

Other Articles by Don Hooser
Origin of article "Thanksgiving Day, Not "Be Thankful" Day"
Keywords: thanksgiving gratitude giving thanks 


Gratitude: Key Subjects Index
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