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Monday, December 1, 2014

Has an "Attitude of Gratitude" Become a Platitude?

Yesterday I had the privilege of being the guest speaker for our Sunday worship service at the church we attend. I was asked to keep the focus on the importance of being thankful in the aftermath of our national holiday. No problem.

The title of my message was the same as the title of this blog. As noted previously in a writing, my family spent three years in Dallas, Texas. During that time, I sat in Zig Ziglar’s Sunday School class for a couple of years. I heard his best stories several times, along with those well rehearsed quips like having an “attitude of gratitude.” Zig learned that lesson early in life.

Vicki Hidges, who worked in public relations for Zig for several years, gives this insightful picture of this man: “Zig started out poor. Dirt poor. His father died when he was six, leaving his mother to raise eleven children alone. The family was virtually penniless. Yet despite their poverty, Mrs. Ziglar instilled a strong work ethic in her children and raised them to believe that both she and God loved them.”

She added, “Zig once told me, ‘When we neglect to require our children to say thank you when someone gives them a gift or does something for them, we raise ungrateful children who are highly unlikely to be content. Without gratitude, happiness is rare. With gratitude, the odds for happiness go up dramatically.’”

The man himself said, “Of all the ‘attitudes’ we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life-changing.”

At his corporate headquarters in Dallas, Zig had framed pictures of about 25-30 people. It was called his Wall of Gratitude. There’s a YouTube video of this should you want to see it.

My message pointed out that years before the motivational teacher from Yazoo City, Mississippi, preached on gratitude, King David knew of its importance. Several Psalms reflect that. I chose Psalm 118. Here are a few of the verses:

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 118:24-29, ESV)

It is my observation that in western cultures—particularly ours in the U.S.—we have turned a bit of a cold shoulder to being grateful. Our blessings have been great. But as Abraham Lincoln stated in one of his Thanksgiving proclamations, “We have forgotten God.” What are some root causes of this ungratefulness?

I suggested several Gratitude Killers:

A sense of entitlement at any level or for any reason.
A sense of being “self made” and, thus, “self provided.”
Seeing oneself as better than others.
A belief that you or I are more deserving than others.
Having a life with too many blessings given to us.
Allowing dark circumstances to blind a person to the silver lining. (When discouragement takes hold in our lives.)
Failure to spend time counting our blessings.
Being steadily in the company of the selfish.
Ignoring God: the Great Provider and Sustainer of all of life.

The workplace is one important area where we fall short. Many do not appreciate their jobs. They feel underpaid and overworked. And perhaps they are! But we also have blessings galore. One of them being a job!

Employers need to learn the spirit of gratefulness as well. It is demonstrated by showing appreciation to employees in words and in pay. Simple stuff.

So do a gut check on this. Is your life displaying gratitude for the great blessings you enjoy? Or do you need a YouTube visit with Zig Ziglar?

Remember, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, determines your altitude.”

I like to end on a high note.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.

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