Do you struggle to remain grateful through your day? How about in your closest relationships? Do your closest friends and family also struggle to remain thankful?
Jim Rohn famously said: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
So if you tend to spend time with negative people, you will remain negative. If you feed your mind with positive information, your mind will follow suit.
Let’s explore how this works.
#1: We become like those we spend time with
When we’re teaching our children about friendships we advise them to avoid certain bad influences and choose good friends.
Funny story. My parents forbid me from playing with a neighbor boy named Doug. They could tell he was bad news. A few years ago I ran into Doug at a church gathering. He’s now a pastor and I told him that story and he confirmed, “Your parents steered you correctly. I was a troublemaker in those days. But now I’m saved by the grace of Jesus…”
Paul told the Corinthian church, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Cor. 15:33 ESV). But the book of Proverbs confirms the inverse is also true: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise” (Prov. 13:20 ESV).
#2: Choose grateful relationships
The book of Psalms starts out with some profound wisdom. If you want to find life, avoid the wicked, sinners, and scoffers. Instead, fill your mind and heart with God’s word. The implication follows that wise people surround themselves with godly, holy, grateful people who love God’s word.
Take a look at your five closest friends (we’ll talk about family shortly.) How grateful would you say your friends are on a scale of 1 to 10 (ten being most grateful)?
If you’re discovering, like me, that you have some negative friends in your life ask yourself these two questions: Who are the most grateful people you know? How might you spend more time with them?
The point of all this is to surround ourselves with grateful people so that we become more thankful. When we show gratitude, we will become more like Jesus and the people around us will notice.
#3: Cultivate thankfulness at home
Home may be the hardest place to remain grateful. We drop our guard when we come home from work. We need a safe place to process our day and it’s normal for this to become negative or critical.
My wife and I led worship together for many years in several churches. After the service each week we would evaluate the service on the drive home. I regret this now, but our children often overheard these conversations. Instead of raising grateful worshipers, I fear I cultivated worship critics.
The same happens in our daily conversations. If we focus on what’s wrong and fixing things we fail to affirm the people we love the most.
During pre-marital counseling our pastor encouraged us to hold hands each night, look in each other’s eyes and say something we’re grateful for. What if we looked for ways to thank each other at home every day? Based on Gary Chapman’s wisdom in The Five Love Languages you may need to get creative in how you express gratitude. But we can do this daily.
#4: Choose grateful information sources
In a digital world we surround ourselves with people and voices through social media, traditional media, and our phones. Messages bombard us constantly. The source of those messages can either take us down or build us up.
So just as we need to choose our friends wisely, we do well to choose our information sources wisely too. Are they positive and fair? Do they balance good news with tragedy? I’ve mentioned him before, but I highly recommend including Branden Harvey’s GoodNewsPaper in your routine.
Did you realize that social media sites like Facebook feed you more of the kinds of posts you engage with? So if you read and like negative posts, they will send you more. They are trying to keep things more positive, but the site is designed to keep you coming back so it will reinforce whatever biases you have. So choose wisely who and what you follow and engage with.
#5: Gratefulness begets grateful relationships
When someone genuinely thanks you it often inspires the desire to reciprocate. While there’s a downside to reciprocity, in this case it serves a very positive role. John Rampton cites research that reveals how happiness and gratefulness trigger a contagious response among friends.
What about my negative relationships?
Negative relationships are unavoidable. Whether Aunt Debbie Downer or Condescending Charlie at work, we can’t completely escape negativity. My encouragement is to limit the impact and influence of these negative voices. We can do this through filling our minds and lives with grateful people and God’s Word.
As we grow in gratitude we can also choose to respond gratefully even when surrounded by negative voices. And sometimes we remain silent and leave the room. You can’t win every battle.
Three challenges today. Choose one or do them all:
#1: Start by finding ways daily to express gratitude to your spouse and your family. Journal for a few minutes about how you can do this and start taking action today.
#2: Evaluate your friendship circle and see if you need to change your inner circle of relationships.
#3: Study your information sources. How much time do you spend in God’s word and listening to good news? If you want a stretch challenge, consider joining me in doing Professor Horner’s Bible reading plan a different way to read through the bible in a year.
Lord, I thank you that you’re my number one influence. I pray you will fill me with your Spirit and a love for your Word. I also pray you will surround me with men and women who love you and model gratefulness. Show me how to be more grateful at home, at work, and at play. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.