Gratitude, the parent of all virtues

It forms character and cultivates a generous spirit; it teaches appreciation, humility, and good stewardship.

  • Oct. 7, 2012 11:00 a.m.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

– Meister Eckhart

 

Most societies and people through the centuries have recognized the importance of gratitude for living well, and for living well together.

Cicero called it the “parent of all virtues.”

Ask any parent. They know just how important it is. One of the earliest values that we instill in our children is gratitude as we gently, patiently, and consistently teach them to say, “thank you”.

We start early because learning to say “thank you” is important for our children’s socialization; it forms character and cultivates a generous spirit; it teaches appreciation, humility, and good stewardship.

It is not good for children to grow up with a sense of entitlement. It is not good for them to take things for granted. Neither is it good for those around them or for the environment.

Gratitude, important as it is, is not something that we are born with. It has to be taught, cultivated over a long time. And then it becomes a discipline.

You don’t have to be particularly religious to appreciate the value of gratitude. But it is also true that thankfulness is an important and beautiful part of the Christian faith.

The Christian life is a life of thanksgiving.

Our Christian understanding of gratitude rests on our understanding of God’s goodness. We acknowledge that we are not self-made or self-sufficient. We are loved, blessed, and cared for by our Father who generously provides for us. We recognize God’s hand in our lives and hold onto God’s love for all people, for the entire cosmos.

So we are thankful for pumpkins, squash, beets, carrots and turkeys; for children, spouses, parents, and cousins; for school, work and pay cheques; for salmon streams, mountains, swamps, and winter rains; for people who teach us, help us, serve us, and lead us; and for the conveniences of modern life.

But we receive all of these as gifts. We don’t take any of it for granted. And we continually offer ourselves to God in gratitude.

But there is more. We are thankful for God’s greatest gift of love – Jesus Christ, who in humility became the servant of many.

I tried to make a list of Bible texts on thanksgiving, but gave up because the references were too numerous. Prayers, songs, stories, and exhortations abound.

A few:

• Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.)

• Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:16-17.)

• Devote yourself to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. (Colossians 4:2.)

• Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for what he has done. (Philippians 4:6.)

For Christians, there is a deep connection between thankfulness and prayer. When we pray, we most often say, “Thank you, Lord.” Christ is our example. He “took break, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples” so that they in turn can distribute it. Eucharist – thanksgiving – is our word for it. Eucharist is our feast where we celebrate not only the gifts of God, but God’s greatest gift – Jesus Christ – who came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.

 

Gerard Booy is pastor at Haney Presbyterian Church.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cumulative cases by local health area from January to October.
Bylaws ready to enforce mandatory masking

Compliance has been high in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows say officials

The 1st Haney Scout group has set up their annual Christmas tree lot at Trek Bicycle, 21626 Lougheed Highway, Maple Ridge. (1st Haney Scouts/Special to The News)
Christmas trees selling to support Maple Ridge scouts

The 1st Haney Scout Group’s annual Christmas tree lot opens Nov. 28

Soleil Brooks is proudly wearing a University of Victoria sweatshirt around the halls of Maple Ridge Secondary School this week after accepting a scholarship offer to play rugby on the island. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Maple Ridge rugby star earns coveted scholarship to UVic

Soleil Brooks captained Team BC to the U16 Western Canadian championship in 2019

Re-elected Maple Ridge MLAs Lisa Beare and Bob D’Eith were sworn into government virtually on Tuesday, Nov. 24.	(The News/files)
Maple Ridge MLAs virtually sworn into B.C. legislature

MLAs Lisa Beare and Bob D’Eith were sworn in along with 55 other members of the BC NDP

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

File photo
Surrey RCMP investigating death threat against Surrey councillor

‘On Monday morning I received a threat on messenger that basically said to put a bullet in me,’ Councillor Jack Hundial told the Now-Leader

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

Most Read