One of our greatest powers and privileges as human persons is the ability to give thanks. Each of us can turn to God, our parents, spouses, family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers and say “thank you.” We each have this capacity to reflect on our experiences and to express our gratitude. It’s an awesome ability.
Unfortunately, the power to give thanks can be a difficult virtue to nurture. At times, we would rather look only to ourselves or to our own talents. We see only ourselves as the cause of our success and accomplishments. The idea of acknowledging that we needed God or other people to accomplish a task or achieve a goal seems daunting and inconceivable. It seems a defeat rather than part of the achievement.
In contrast, discipleship summons us to a higher realization. It calls us out of ourselves and leads us to recognize the role played by God and others in our accomplishments. Discipleship gives us the freedom to offer thanks, and to be comfortable in acknowledging our need for other people and for their help.
At times, other challenges threaten our power to give thanks. In our society, the growing sense of entitlement is a dangerous spirit to our thanksgiving. Entitlement closes us in on ourselves, and demands the help of others. It asserts that any assistance we might receive is a personal right and is to be expected. Such an approach compels anger within us whenever it does not receive its assumed due.
Entitlement can smother our natural desire to give thanks. It can remove any attempt to give the benefit of the doubt to others, and it leaves no room for humble appreciation of the gifts and help offered by our loved ones and neighbors.
Our discipleship teaches us a different mind set and provides us with a wider world view. The way of life of the disciple exposes entitlement as an enslaver of our spiritual life, and a limiter of our ability to love and live in freedom.
Our discipleship calls us to actively use the power to reflect, understand, and give thanks to God and others. It leads us to a greater understanding of life as a gift, frequently received and frequently given.
Father Kirby is the parochial vicar at St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken.