It’s interesting how when we become interested in a new product, say a certain model of car, that we seem to continually notice that specific car whenever and wherever we go. Thinking about getting an eco-friendly Prius? Suddenly you’re seeing a lot of Prius cars.
This is how it has been for me and the idea of gratefulness. This is a topic I have been giving attention to in my own life, and in a similar fashion I am seeing a lot of articles and books on this topic, whether on the Internet, in magazines and journals, or in bookstores. Gratefulness, the articles are saying, can go a long way towards being happy and ultimately being mentally healthy.
Scripture affirms the benefits of gratefulness and, along with the concept of Total Behavior, reminds us that gratefulness and being thankful is something we choose and consciously nurture. It’s wonderful to feel gratefulness, to experience a wave of gratitude that brings with it a sense of peace and contentment, but feelings can be fickle, a momentary rush that quickly passes. Gratefulness, it would appear, is more about a decision we make than a feeling we experience.
This is where Scripture and Total Behavior can really help us.
Total Behavior (to quickly review) is based on the idea that all our behavior is purposeful, that we are constantly behaving to meet our needs, and that every behavior is always made up of four parts – the action part, the thinking part, the feeling part, and the physiology part. Glasser states that while every behavior is made up of the four parts, only two of the parts – our thinking and our acting – are under our direct control. Our feelings (emotions) and our physiology (i.e. – heart rate, eye dilation, breathing, etc.) reflect and/or come into line with our thinking and acting, but we cannot control them directly. Total Behavior is often compared to a diagram of a car, with the front wheels (those that we directly steer) representing thinking and acting, and the back wheels representing feelings and physiology. Because of this reality, choice theory reminds us to focus on the front two tires – thinking and acting – as much as possible. It is empowering to realize that you can directly control or influence your thought patterns.
It is tempting, and maybe even appealing, to choose misery. (Misery might be the exact opposite of being grateful.) Our thought patterns become scripts of how someone else has mistreated us, which then prompt us to “write” imaginary conversations that defend our hurt and direct the blame toward someone else. We wallow in our resentment and become ever more convinced that we deserve to feel unhappy. It’s like we are in a cocoon of our own making, wrapping the blankets around us more thickly and tightly with each passing moment. It can be hard to believe that we choose our misery, but, if we think that feeling miserable is our least painful option at that moment, we do.
Bible writers like David and Paul want us to choose gratefulness, to nurture its presence in our lives, and to recognize it as a decision more than an emotion.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it. Ps. 118:24
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. Philippians 4:4,6,7
Some make the mistake of waiting to feel grateful – part of the total behavior we don’t directly control – rather than choosing to be grateful. We wait for gratefulness to come to us, instead of intentionally claiming it. Life on a free will planet is so much about choices. I think God wants us to use our choice power to freely choose Him, to choose to have faith, to claim thankfulness, to forgive others, and to love liberally. Choice theory acknowledges our need for love, power, freedom, joy, and purpose, which are needs that God not only acknowledges, He created us with these needs in the first place. I encourage you to choose gratefulness today!
Thinking of Martin Luther King today and the principles for which he stood. His courage was pretty incredible! Click on the I Have a Dream link to listen to or read the famous speech he gave in 1963.