If you’ve ever spent much time thinking about “thankfulness,” then you probably can easily recognize the things that pop up as opposites: ungratefulness, a critical spirit, being judgmental, etc. The more you think through the antonyms of “thankful,” the more you become aware of the root of each: a focus on self! Conversely, gratitude and thanksgiving develop from an outward (or upward) focus.
The analytical, often judging, spirit that I see in so many people (and most often within myself) finds its source in our sin nature, not our surroundings! However, my flesh often convinces me otherwise. Send illness, an injustice of some sort, or a difficult trial my way, and I quickly begin to lose any sort of thankful spirit! Maybe you’re a bit like me, or maybe you’ve seen these characteristics in your protégé.
If thanksgiving roots inwardly, from a choice of our minds that flows into our heart and actions, how might one better cultivate thankfulness in their own life and the life of the child they’re mentoring? I think the answer is pretty simple but will create massive side effects. Changing one’s perspective from things being “mine” or something “I earned” to being a gift or something I’ve been given to steward is monumental.
When I’m able to shift my point of view toward my possessions off of being something I own and on to being something God supplied, I find gratitude flows freely from my heart. I’m quick to praise God for each meal He’s supplied. I’m eager to share my blessings with others. I’m less focused on what I can gain and more focused upon what He entrusted it to me for.
This plays out in our mentoring relationships nearly every time we hang out. We can either model having a thankful heart in how we give praise to God before eating, or we can be annoyed when our protégé doesn’t tell us “thank you.” We can help them focus on the blessing that it is to go to school and learn, or we can grow weary and frustrated at their bad attitude toward school. We can teach them how to love and serve those around them, or we can focus all our hangouts on what’s fun and easy to do.
Helping stir up a thankful heart in our protégé doesn’t happen overnight but is a step-by-step process. Look for ways to kindle gratitude to God in your own heart that can overflow into your hang out times. Find ways to serve together, and I guarantee the conversations about thankfulness will rise to the surface. Practice talking about God’s blessings and stewardship instead of putting the focus on what you’ve earned at work or have been sacrificing for them. These small steps will set you on a path towards gratefulness and genuine thanksgiving in both your own heart and your protégé’s!
-Christina Hickman, Relationship Coordinator