John Maxwell on Leadership

Seeing the Way to Gratitude


I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking a lot about turkey and stuffing lately. Of course, that’s because Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States. But food is not the only thing the holiday makes me think of. At this time of year, I’m reminded of the idea behind the day.

While the tradition dates to the 1620s, the official holiday didn’t come into existence until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation to set aside the last Thursday of November as a day for giving thanks. This was right in the middle of the American Civil War, yet despite the nation’s struggles, Lincoln recognized that there was still much to be grateful for.

So much, in fact, that he wanted all Americans to join him in his gratitude. Lincoln wrote:

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

One of the many things I admire about President Lincoln is the ability that he had to look beyond his circumstances, to see better things. While the Civil War threatened to tear the nation apart, he looked past the fighting and saw a day when the nation would be whole once again. It was this vision that allowed him to see the hand of God moving with grace during one of our nation’s most trying periods. President Lincoln could see not only immediate blessings to be thankful for, but also greater blessings to come. He let his faith become sight, and it spurred him to gratitude.

That’s because gratitude doesn’t come from our circumstances; it comes from how we choose to see the world.

Quite simply, gratitude comes from your heart.

What about you? When this Thursday rolls around, what will you see in your life that deserves a moment of gratitude? I encourage you to look at your life with fresh eyes and find one or two things that stand out to you as signs of great blessing. And when you’ve done that, tell someone what you’ve discovered – because gratitude is meant to be shared.

And just like President Lincoln, you’ll want to invite others to join you. Because once you can see everything for which you’re grateful, you’ll want the whole world to know the feeling.


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