Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why Giving Thanks Matters

Thanksgiving is when one species ceases to gobble and another begins.
-          R.E. Marion

A story is told of two men who were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent that they would not make it.

Terrified, the one shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We are in for it!” John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.” “But you must,” implored his companion. “The bull is catching up to us.” “All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.”

Thanksgiving, to borrow a football analogy, is like the two-minute warning at the end of an NFL game. At the two-minute warning comes a chance to catch your breath and finish strong. Thanksgiving is the two-minute warning signaling the close of a long year whereby you can rest, be with family and friends, and reflect on all your blessings.

What kind of a year has it been for you? What does the scoreboard say? Are you thankful for your blessings as well as the challenges you have faced this year? Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.”

The two men walking through the field met an unwelcomed challenge that quickly changed the course of their personal well-being. That’s how life unfolds—fast, unexpected at times, but never boring. For those in leadership, possessing a thankful heart is how you finish strong. But why does being thankful matter? Here are three reasons why.

Giving thanks connects you to the source of your blessing. The further removed you are from the source of your blessings the easier it is to take your blessings for granted. In a recent blog post, Michael Hyatt shared how at the encouragement of a friend, he started carrying a gratitude rock in his pocket. Hyatt writes, “The idea is simple. Whenever my hand contacts the stone–usually several times a day–I give thanks for whatever is happening at that moment, whether good or bad.”

Giving thanks connects you and reminds you that regardless of what you are going through, there is always something for which to be thankful. What is the source of your blessings? Be it your faith, family, or other significant person, show your appreciation.

Giving thanks empowers you to serve. What is the greater purpose of your leadership? When you understand that it is not about you then you are prepared to serve causes greater than yourself. Likewise, you will be hard pressed to find a whiner or complainer who puts the cares and concerns of others above his own.

The late Fred Rogers said, “The real issue is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away.” I am convinced that the more you have to be thankful for the more generous you will be. Servant leadership begins with a thankful heart.

Giving thanks completes you as a leader. Many terms are used to identify a leader: visionary, passionate, honest, trustworthy, delegator, and decision maker, to name a few. As noble and necessary as those qualities are it is thankfulness that completes and compliments your leadership.

How do you express gratitude to those around you? John Maxwell said, “The people who follow you also desire a personal touch. They want to know that others care about them.” The circle of caring is completed as you nurture a thankful attitude and demonstrate it to others.

Giving thanks matters and is a key ingredient in your growth as a leader. A thankful heart will connect you with the source of your blessings, empower you to serve others, and will complete you as a leader. Don’t allow the negatives you are faced with to drain you of your of your energy or cause you to take your eye off the ball. Give thanks, give it often, and finish strong.

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

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