There’s nothing like being around grateful people, I think. They lift the spirits of the groups they’re in. When you leave a conversation with them, your outlook on life is better for having been with them.
Picture it with me for a moment, if you will. When there’s a grateful individual in your conversation, the whole group “buoys up”. The critics and nay-sayers begin to show for who they really are. After a while, they either begin to align with the grateful one, or drive the thankful person away. When I meet a person who truly appreciates life, God’s blessings, and the things He’s given them to enjoy, I tend to hang around them a bit longer. Maybe a lot longer. I seek out or am drawn into their conversations. More than that, I try to BE the grateful one in conversation whenever I can.
That’s not always been true. There was a segment of my personal history when I was more than a little critical; I was basically ungrateful, and lucky to have the friends I did. In those days could find what was wrong with anything we were talking about, and usually did. It was a game I liked to play, but the more I played it, the fewer real friends I had. I had lots of acquaintances, but fewer and fewer friends. The turning point came one day in the lunch line outside the cafeteria when I looked up and noticed Tim, one of my friends, was gone.
A few days earlier a group of us had been standing and talking before lunch, and I was being my usual ungrateful, critical self as we talked about whatever came up in conversation. Suddenly I found myself in a quiet conversation with Tim, one of the regulars in our circle of friends. Looking back on it, ours wasn’t really a dialogue, it was a moment in which I was put on notice. “Phil,” he said with quiet control (I’ve since wondered how long he practiced his little speech.) “You have the ability to find what’s wrong with whatever it is we’re talking about. If you ever look up and notice I’m gone, it’s because I chose to leave rather than hit you.” Our eyes met momentarily, and then he turned back to the conversation as we waited for the cafeteria doors to open. I remember swallowing.“Oh really?!” I thought.
Then a few days later I looked over and realized his girlfriend was still in the conversation but he had left. I took a quick inventory of what I’d said in the last few minutes. Not good. That’s all it took for the Lord to spark some serious introspection and a gradual turn-around. I say gradual because some habits are really hard to break.
I began to ask God to help me be more grateful. More appreciative. Lose the critical spirit. I made progress, but it was slow and sometimes tedious. (Once you’re good at being negative it’s really hard to turn that battleship around!) When I discovered Henry Smith’s praise chorus “Give Thanks” I made it my theme song for a while to help me finish turning the corner.
Today I can find a grateful person in a crowd fairly quickly. I strive to be one of those, so it’s easy to find them now. There’s a smile on their lips. Gentleness in their eyes. Kindness in how they relate to the people they visit with. People move toward them, not away, and when they *do* need to leave, they leave the conversation smiling.
“Which am I?” might be a good question to ask yourself. “Are people drawn to Christ because of me? Or do I push people away with the way I am, including people who need to meet my Jesus?” Something to think about.
Re-working a few things probably won’t be easy (it wasn’t for me) but it’ll be worth it. Way worth it!