“Among all emotions there is one which, more than any other, accounts for the presence or absence of stress in human relations: that is the feeling of gratitude. [Take every opportunity you can to express your gratitude to others for them being who they are and for what they do for you and others.]” Dr. Hans Seyle
Pastor Garcia talked about Thanksgiving at church and brought up Dr. Seyle’s words about gratitude. “Gratitude is the absence of stress.” Dr. Seyle is known for his introduction of the concept of stress in a medical context in the mid-1970s. He also says that gratitude is the most important of all human emotions.
This “most important of all human emotions” seems to be way down on the list of significance in our present society except for the one day of the year when we celebrate Thanksgiving.
We all state our obligatory “I’m thankful for” around the table on this food gobbling day, but other than that we seldom stop, in our hectic pace, to cherish and express gratitude for what we have. We seem to be too busy chasing the ‘what we don’t haves’.
If the best way to get rid of stress is to be grateful, then we all better get busy being grateful because there is an awful lot of stress going around.
For me, as a Christian, it simply means to recognize God in my life, daily, and all He has done to bless my family and me. When I feel stressed or fearful, I bring up monuments from past experiences where God showed up in a mighty way. He miraculously healed our marriage, and he healed our daughter. Recently, he healed our precious little dog, Stewie, when we thought we might lose him to pancreatitis. I remind myself of His presence in my life and express my thanksgiving for that. I’m grateful for the peace that comes in knowing He will take care of me. That is a surefire remedy for stress and fear.
This gratitude towards God is a form of worship to Him. When we dwell on thankfulness for “worldly things’, the act can seem a bit self-centered, though, if you compare it to Seyle’s words in brackets. “Take every opportunity you can to express your gratitude to others for them being who they are and for what they do for you and others.”
Seyle is saying that we shouldn’t focus on what we have to be grateful for, but what we can give to others by expressing our gratitude towards them. A few words of thanksgiving to someone can change their life. We often fail in our society to properly show our gratitude. In this world of “what works for me” we tend to forget “what will benefit others”.
On our drive home from church, Rick mentioned that someone told him, that morning, how much they appreciated our ministry. I felt elated, not because my ego was flattered, but because we rarely hear feedback from what we do. It’s hard to know if we are getting the message across in a way that people want to listen unless someone tells us.
Why are we so slow in showing our gratitude towards others for who they are and what they do for us? Why do we wait until their memorial services to share how wonderful they are and how they touched our lives? We should be doing that every day, especially before we lose them to death.
Seyle’s words reflect what God desires most from us, to serve others. We are put here on Earth to build up others, to edify them, and to put their needs ahead of our own. If gratitude is the most important emotion, according to Seyle, then what better way is there to love our neighbor?
I need to work at being a better neighbor by expressing my gratitude for the wonderful things people do for me.
Be sure to tell the cooks of your Thanksgiving dinner how grateful you are for their time and effort. And if you’re feeling stressed, remember to show your gratitude – either to God or your neighbor - most importantly to your spouse.