“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” –G.K. Chesterton
Tis the season to be grateful. I have been meditating quite a bit on the correlation between humility and gratitude. I think we can all think of times we’ve expressed thankfulness without humility. Whenever I make the mistake of using the words “I am so thankful” to start a sentence that is really just a humblebrag, I can’t help but hear the prayer of the Pharisee: “Lord, thank you that I am not like that sinner!” I wonder, should we even call such a declaration an expression of thankfulness? It seems to me that without humility, an expression of thankfulness is simply an expression of happiness. I could just as easily say “I am so happy that I have…” (fill in the blank with an example of good fortune or enviable success here.)
Thankfulness with humility is best described by the G.K. Chesterton quote above: it is happiness doubled by wonder. A person who is truly thankful is not just happy to have lots of nice things, but also has the humility to wonder whether the good things he or she has could even exist except for the grace of God or to wonder how he or she came to deserve such a good thing! True thankfulness says “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10) and, I would add, “I have what I have.”
A person experiencing true humble, thankfulness goes back to the source to actually say thank you, not out to the rest of the world to express happiness. I was humbled immensely by this picture posted on Kevin De Young’s blog with nothing but the simple title “Happy Thanksgiving.”
Those of you familiar with the Gospels will recognize that this is an illustration of Luke 17:11-19. This visual does as good a job as any words I could use in illustrating my point: There is a different between mere happiness and true gratitude. Mere happiness goes out to the streets to announce itself. True gratitude has the humility to wonder “how can it be?” and “why me?” True gratitude recognizes that we can not just announce our thanks, we must GIVE thanks to God.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends!