By Eddie Pipkin

A friend of mine who owns a small business told me a story about an employee and ingratitude.  He’d hired the guy so he could learn a trade, and the guy was doing pretty good work for the company.  One afternoon this guy decided to fix an issue with one of the company trucks, and his employer thanked him for his initiative, to which this fellow replied, “You can just add the invoice amount for the repair to my regular paycheck.”  The employee who did this work – for which he had actually prepared an invoice  – did it while on the clock for his regular shift.  But because it was beyond the scope of his regular duties, and because, as he explained, he had “saved the company hundreds of dollars,” he felt entitled to charge extra for his expertise.  It will not surprise you that a “conversation of clarification” followed.

This time of year we are very vocal about expressing our gratitude.  It is a good and healthy thing that we do this.  But it is too often true that we undermine our words with our actions.  We say we are grateful, but an objective observer, able to judge us only by our actions, might question our true attitude.  In reflective moments, we realize the miracle of having the privilege of working in ministry, partnering with other ministry professionals, working with amazing volunteers, creatively using our God-given talents, and leveraging our resources to change the world.  However, in the middle of the day-to-day grind, we get focused on ourselves: the slights we perceive and the injustices we suffer!  We filter the world through a me-me-me mentaility that can warp our perception of the very work to which we have been called.  Sometimes we need someone to tell us, “Just do the job.”  That’s the path to gratitude: doing the work – hard though it may be – and doing it with joy, excellence, and appreciation that there’s work to be done and that we are blessed enough to be called to do it.

So, this Thanksgiving, here’s a reminder of some of the ways we ministry leaders and ministry servants can put our gratitude where our thankful mouths are (with a shout-out to the Deseret News article “15 Things Happy People Do Differently”):

  • Let’s work out of love instead of out of fear. Instead of guarding our own territory, let’s wish for the best for each of our ministry partners.
  • Let’s practice acceptance instead of resistance. Instead of reflexively saying “no,” let’s try out an improbable “yes” and see what happens next.
  • Let’s extend forgiveness instead of looking for payback. Instead of plotting revenge or cheering for someone else to get what’s coming to them, let’s try on some empathy and forgiveness and see how it changes us (and them).
  • Let’s operate out of trust instead of doubt. Instead of suspecting the motives of those with whom we might disagree, what if we if we tried harder to understand their viewpoint and gave them some rope to take the lead on a project?
  • Let’s serve the search for deeper meaning instead of serving our ambition. Instead of filtering everything through the lens of how it can advance our cause, what if we slowed down and processed things through the lens of how God is working through multiple people with multiple goals and needs.
  • Let’s offer more praise and less criticism. Instead of critique and complaint as our go-to, what if we said nice things (with sincerity)?
  • Let’s think of the bumps in the road as challenges to be solved rather than problems that are insurmountable. Instead of giving up because things look hopeless, what if we faced each challenge as an opportunity to learn something new?
  • Let’s orient our minds to “abundance thinking” rather than “poverty thinking.” What if, instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we celebrated what we do?
  • Let’s dream big and expand our horizons rather than surrendering to the hard truths of reality. Okay, reality is . . . well . . .    But what if we just dreamed a nutty dream once in a while?
  • Let’s practice kindness rather than cruelty. Let’s stop cheering for other people to fail and, instead, fight that urge with specific good deeds.
  • Let’s promise one another presence and engagement rather than disengagement. Let’s stop pulling away, and, instead, lean in even more.
  • Let’s step up and take responsibility rather than assigning blame. What if, instead of rushing to explain why everything wrong is somebody else’s fault, we started off with looking in the mirror.

That’s a lot of ideas for practically living out our gratitude.  As usual, as you’re skimming a list like this, it’s easy to take no action because it’s just too much information to process.

SO, PICK ONE.  Pick one this week.  Concentrate on that one habit – work it for one week – then choose another one the next week.  Use each as a way to be more mindful as you’re living and working in gratitude.  And share them with your ministry teams.  Talk about how you undermine one another when you practice the opposite of these things and how you make one another stronger when you act positively (living out the lives of grace to which we are called).

And on a bonus note, check out this article from Time on “How to Be More Positive.”  Although they are suggestions on rewiring our personal mindset to keep us in a non-negative mode, I was struck by how each of these practices is an expression of gratitude.

  • Say thanks. Often and in as many ways as possible, formally and informally, prayerfully and whimsically, express your gratitude out loud, and not just the week officially marked as a holiday for doing so.
  • Phone a pal. Be grateful for the people in your life who have expressed their willingness to support you.  Take them up on it.  This helps you and makes them feel swell, too.
  • Do something nice for someone else. Paying it forward always brings out the warm fuzzies (especially on a day when we might be feeling down) and reorients us back towards the things that are truly important.
  • Set reminders! Be disciplined about living gratefully.  Build “thankful walks” and note-writing and thoughtful-deeds-that-no-one-will-see into your regular routine.
  • Concentrate on the blessings. I love the suggestion in the Time article for cultivating a “vocabulary of gratitude.”  We have lots and lots of words for complaint and critique.  What if we developed and used more words for acknowledging the blessings all around us?  What if we used them relentlessly around other people?
  • Reframe your view. One of the essential and invaluable skills of a disciple is to look at things from an other-than-obvious perspective.  We should practice this vigorously! Silver linings, opportunities to grow, and new things to be learned through hardship are all part of our growth and deeper living.  And don’t get bogged down in the bad news.  If one thing is going wrong, distract yourself by focusing on another aspect of your life or ministry.  It is a wide world out there, full of wonders.

Feeling grateful this week?  Turn those feelings into practical leadership activities.  We’re thankful for your readership here at EMC3 Coaching.  We wish a bledssed Thanksgiving week to you and yours!