There is an old saying that “yesterday’s gift is already twice forgotten.” We may express appreciation when we receive a gift, but it’s a human proclivity to forget it after a little while; and even important gifts become parts of our everyday lives that we don’t think about any more. We even say something is a “given” if it is accepted and something we no longer need to focus on.
But when the apostle Paul wrote that we should be “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20 ESV), the “always” and “for everything” would certainly seem to include past gifts that we still enjoy rather than only those new ones of which we might be more aware. But human forgetfulness still stops us doing this as much as we should. So how do we make our appreciation stick? There are four things that help:
Give thanks for it. That’s exactly what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 5:20. We need to offer thanks to the One from whom all gifts ultimately come (James 1:17) – no matter who delivers them. And occasionally we need to remind ourselves of the most basic gifts of all. The average human heart beats around 100,000 times a day, 35 million times a year, but how many of those mega-micro-gifts have we ever given thanks for? The more we see small gifts, the more we see large ones in true perspective.
Write it down. It may be hard to write down every gift we receive, but complete recording is not the point. The more we think to write down our gifts, the more we become aware of them. Writing down the things for which you are truly thankful at the end of each week in a “gratitude list” gives you a way of keeping the memory and appreciation of them alive.
Tell someone about it. This is easy enough if we have mates, family members or close friends with whom we can talk openly. Naturally, our significant people don’t need to know that we are thankful that we didn’t burn the toast again this morning, but telling others about serious blessings is the opposite of confession – it tells others how good God is and helps them realize the gifts they have.
Share it with someone. By “share” I mean literally share the gift or part of it where this is appropriate. We may not be able to share some of the most basic gifts in life, but then again, sometimes we can. We can share many aspects of our physical blessings by giving part of what we earn, loaning items to people who need them, giving of our time and by sharing in many other ways. If you read through your "gratitude list" every so often, you may find a number of things that are appropriate to share. Whatever it may be, when we share a gift we focus on it and often appreciate it more ourselves.
The more of these basic techniques we employ, the more we appreciate what we have – and the more the appreciation sticks with us. And there is another aspect to this. The more appreciative we become, the more we live our "attitude of gratitude." As John F. Kennedy wrote: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”