“Live in Thanksgiving Daily”
By Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Think for a moment, if you will, of someone you know who is truly happy. We’ve all met those who seem to radiate happiness. They seem to smile more than others; they laugh more than others—just being around them makes us happier as well. Now think of someone you know who isn’t happy at all. Perhaps they seem 10 years older than they are, drained of energy—perhaps they are angry or bitter or depressed. What is the difference between them? What are the characteristics that differentiate the happy from the miserable? Is there something that unhappy people can do to be happier? I believe there is. Let me tell you a story to illustrate this observation. A long time ago in a faraway village lived a man who everyone did their very best to avoid. He was the type of person who believed that there was only one competent person in the world, and that one person was himself. Consequently, he was never satisfied with anything. His shoes never fit right. His shirt never felt comfortable. When his food wasn’t too cold, it was too salty, and when it wasn’t too hot, it was too bland. If a field wasn’t sowed by himself, it was not sowed well. If he didn’t close the door, the door was not closed properly. In short, he made a career of frowning, lecturing, criticizing, and mumbling about the incompetencies of every other person in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the man was married, which made matters all the worse. No matter what his wife did, in his eyes it was wrong. No matter what the unfortunate woman cooked, sewed, or cleaned—or even when she milked the cow—it was never satisfactory, and he let her know it. She tried very hard to be a good wife, but it seemed the harder she tried, the less she pleased him. Finally, one evening she could take no more. “I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” she told him. “Tomorrow I will do your chores and you will do mine.” “But you can’t do my chores,” the man replied. “You don’t know the first thing about sowing, hoeing, and irrigating.” But the woman was adamant. And on top of that, she was filled with a righteous anger that frankly astonished and frightened the man to the point where he didn’t dare disagree. So the next morning the wife went off to the fields and the man began the domestic chores. After thinking about it, he had actually convinced himself he was looking forward to it. Once and for all, he would demonstrate to his wife how things should be done. Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan. In fact, nearly everything the man touched turned into disaster. He spilled the milk, let the pig get into the house, lost the cow, burned the dinner, and ultimately set the house on fire, narrowly escaping with his own life. When his wife returned, she discovered her husband sitting on a pile of ashes, smoke still rising from his clothes. But the woman wasn’t the type to rub things in. She helped him up, wiped the soot from his beard, fixed him a little something to eat, and then prepared a bed of straw for them to sleep on. From that day forward, the man never complained about anyone or anything else for as long as he lived.
What do you suppose this story teaches us?
For one thing, it teaches that those who complain make their own and others’ lives miserable. The story also teaches humility. It reminds us that “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). It teaches us not to judge others until we walk in their shoes for a while.
In addition, the story illustrates a quality that the Roman orator Cicero claimed was “not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others” (Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Plancio, 54 B.C.). It is a quality I have found in every happy person I know. It is a quality that instantly makes a person more likable and more at peace. Where there is an abundance of this virtue, there is happiness. Where there is an absence of this virtue, there is often sadness, resentment, and futility.
The virtue I am speaking of is gratitude.
In our story, it was the absence of gratitude that made the man miserable. His inability to appreciate others caused him to be critical of their efforts. Not only did he not empathize with them, he could not allow himself to acknowledge their contributions.
The disasters that confronted him surely made him humble, but, more particularly, they made him appreciate and be grateful for his wife.
Gratitude is a mark of a noble soul and a refined character. We like to be around those who are grateful. They tend to brighten all around them. They make others feel better about themselves. They tend to be more humble, more joyful, more likable.
You might be surprised to know that gratitude is a commandment of the Father. “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7), the Lord has commanded in these latter days. Even further, He has admonished that “in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:21).
In the Book of Mormon we learn that we should “live in thanksgiving daily” (Alma 34:38). Isn’t that a wonderful thought to live in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if others did the same? Do you think the world would be a happier place? less stressful? less angry? more spiritual?
President Joseph F. Smith proclaimed: “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life. Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 263).
Earlier I asked you to think of someone you knew who was truly happy. Think of the person again, if you will, and grade on this principle: Does he or she live in thanksgiving daily?
Now think of someone you know who is unhappy or resentful. Does this person live in thanksgiving daily?
It is difficult to even imagine a resentful person who is grateful or a grateful person who is resentful. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said:
“Absence of gratitude is the mark of the narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge and the ignorance of self-sufficiency. It expresses itself in ugly egotism and frequently in wanton mischief. …
“Where there is appreciation, there is courtesy, there is concern for the rights and property of others. Without it there is arrogance and evil” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 117).
I am grateful that I am a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Later Day Saints.
I am grateful for my loving family.
I am grateful for my amazing friends.
I am grateful for the freedoms that I enjoy.
I am grateful for my AMAZING husband.
I am grateful that my amazing husband can put up with me ;)
I am grateful for the blessings that tithing brings into my life.
What are you grateful for this year?