Does it Make any Difference?

Here we are between sessions and many of you have had time to think about the video and go a little deeper with the exercises in your workbook. If you are like me, you need a little time to ruminate on what you’ve been learning. My best time for ruminating usually comes during my morning run.

Here’s a little of what I was thinking this morning:

rose with thornsWe talked earlier this week about how gifts can sometimes be wrapped up in pain. If you did the homework this week you’ve probably spent some time focusing on at least three moments of pain or struggle from your past.

Sometimes in hindsight the gifts are easy to see. I know the gifts my years of infertility brought me intimately. They sit at my supper table. They have names and faces and unique personalities and my love for them runs deeper than I could ever imagine love would.They are my son and daughter given to me by God through adoption, and I would gladly suffer those years of pain and loss a thousand times over for the privilege of being their mother.

But when I think of my other moments of pain and loss, the gifts are not so evident. Moments defined by ugly words like depression, suicide, cancer and dementia. It’s hard to see the gift when all you can think is “why?”. And I wonder. Does it really make a difference? This eucharisteo. This practice of thankfulness. This gift-naming . . . list-writing . . . does it really matter? Or is it simply another fad, another Christian trend that will fade away as soon as another comes along?

And if it does matter, why do you think that is?

I have my thoughts but would like to hear yours. If you’d like to comment, click on the icon in the upper right hand corner of this blog (the one that looks like a cartoon dialogue balloon).  Let me know what you think . . .

2 Replies to “Does it Make any Difference?”

  1. Hi Kathleen, you ask if this practicing gratitude really will make a difference in our lives. It’s interesting that the scientific community has jumped on this gratitude bandwagon and done studies that show that yes, practicing gratitude does make a difference in a person’s life. Truth is truth no matter where you find it. I’ve included just a few gratitude studies below if anyone is interested .

    Of course God already knew this and is why He told us to do it. He says “in everything give thanks” and He gave us the antidote to anxiety that tells us to take “every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving” to Him. It’s a sad and ironic thing that I can tend to believe the “proof” of scientific studies more than His words to me.

    As I’ve gone about my Saturday morning things to do, I’ve been thinking more about this gratitude thing and wondered, is it a feeling or an act? A noun or a verb? So I looked it up:
    grat•i•tude —–noun
    the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful: He expressed his gratitude to everyone on the staff.
    Huh? What exactly is a quality? It’s a noun, but then the example has someone doing something to express it. So I looked up quality:
    qual•i•ty —–noun
    1. an essential or distinctive characteristic, property, or attribute: the chemical qualities of alcohol.
    2. character or nature, as belonging to or distinguishing a thing: the quality of a sound.
    Ok, making more sense to me. Sometimes this listing “feels” rather mechanical, without the joy or the “feeling” of delight one has when they open a beautifully wrapped box at Christmas. But the listing is a way to make the “seeing” and being thankful for what we see a habit, thus creating this quality of gratitude within us. Sounds absolutely amazing to have gratitude become an essential or distinctive characteristic of my character, to have thankfulness distinguish who I am. So I will keep working at being a discoverer of the “unseen”, those things that are usually off my fast-track, busy-life radar, and give voice to the wonder of having them in my life. Starting with, thanks Father, I really needed this study.

    Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389. Examines the effect of a grateful outlook on one’s well-being through three different studies involving the use of participants recording their moods and experiences with gratitude.

    Gordon, A. M., Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (in press). To Have and to Hold: Gratitude Promotes Relationship Maintenance in Intimate Bonds. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, doi: 10.1037/a0028723 Three studies on appreciation in relationships provides evidence that gratitude is important for the successful maintenance of intimate bonds.

    McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J-A. (2002). The Grateful Disposition: A Conceptual and Empirical Topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(1), 112-127. Four studies examine the correlates of the disposition towards gratitude, finding that self and observer ratings of a grateful disposition are associated with well-being, prosocial behaviors, and spirituality.

    Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). How to Increase and Sustain Positive Emotion: The Effects of Expressing Gratitude and Visualizing Best Possible Selves. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(2), 73-82. regularly practicing counting one’s blessings and visualizing best possible selves are shown to raise and maintain positive mood.

    Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and Happiness: Development of a Measure of Gratitude and Relationships with Subjective Well-Being. Social Behavior and Personality, 31, 431-452. Evaluated the reliability of the Gratitude Resentment and Appreciation Test (GRAT), finding it to have internal consistency and temporal stability, then used GRAT to find the importance of gratitude to subjective well-being.

    Wood, A. M., et al. (2009). Gratitude Influences Sleep through the Mechanism of Pre-Sleep Cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(1), 43–48. This study finds that Gratitude predicts greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, and less sleep latency and daytime dysfunction.

    Wood, A. M., et al. (2010). Gratitude and Well-Being: A Review and Theoretical Integration. Clinical Psychology Review, doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005. Presents a new model of gratitude incorporating both gratitude that arises following help from others and habitual appreciations of the positive aspects of life.

    1. Thanks, Kelley. And I agree. It is ironic how often we want to believe science over God’s word, but as you say “truth is truth.” God created us and as our Creator knows what we need to live lives of joy. Must be why he emphasizes thanksgiving so often. I love how Ann describes the listing as the “other side of prayer.” The opposite of listing our wants and, instead, focusing on our gifts.

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