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Lessons in Gratitude

Who would have guessed there would be lessons in gratitude—and the consequences of ingratitude—from the president of the United States and the father of a college basketball player accused of shoplifting in China. If you don’t know the story, here’s a brief recap.

Donald Trump, who was in China a few weeks ago at the time the incident took place, evidently persuaded the president of China to go easy on three players who took some expensive sunglasses from a high-end store without paying for them.

After the three players were arrested, questioned, detained, and then released and sent home, they expressed their gratitude to president Trump. But the father of one of the players refused to offer thanks. His omission might have gone unnoticed, but the dad was vocal about his refusal.

It's not clear if the dad doubted Trump’s role in the release, or if he was simply unwilling to publicly thank the president. What we do know, however, is that the president was very unhappy with the dad’s ingratitude, so much so that he spent several days offering several choice Tweets, including one that called the dad an “ungrateful fool.” 

Now, we can either shake our heads in bewilderment at the child-like behavior on both sides—one refusing to utter a modicum of thanks, even if he didn’t feel like it, and the other lashing back with playground invectives—or we can learn something about gratitude.

I see two lessons in this little dust up.

First, you will be constantly disappointed if you are expecting gratitude from people for whatever you do. Your hard work and generous spirit may be appreciated, but few people will have the sensitivity or the self-awareness to say anything to you about it. Most people won’t even stop to consider if anyone is responsible. They’ll just enjoy the benefits of your efforts without any expression of thankfulness.

If that seems unfair, consider the story of the lepers in the New Testament (Luke 17:11-19). If only one of the ten lepers Jesus healed came back to thank him, what makes us think we will do any better?

The other lesson is to learn from the people who never convey their gratitude. Don’t be like them. Express your appreciation when someone does something for you. It may be a boss, an employee or a co-worker. It could be someone who provides a service, or someone from your own family. It doesn’t matter if the other person is a friend, a stranger, or family. Be conscious of expressing your gratitude to them.

And while you’re at it, develop the habit of thanking God for everything he has done and continues to do every single day of your life. If you don’t, God won’t send out messages disparaging your character. But if we don’t get into the habit, we’re likely missing out on something of value.

We are told time and again in Scripture to thank God. Like most things God asks us to do, the benefits are more for us than for him, so it seems like a pretty good idea.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening. (Psalm 92:1-2)

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Stan's entire life has been wrapped in content: selling, writing and publishing books and resources that help ordinary people capture a glimpse of extraordinary things.