Genuine thanksgiving has two elements. First, thanksgiving requires expressing gratitude for something good or beneficial. Thankfulness also requires thanking the giver of the blessing, gift or goodness. We thank a cook for a delicious meal. Alternatively, winning the lottery leaves us with no one to thank – unless the allegedly random outcome was rigged.
This Thanksgiving, ponder two questions: (1) For what are you thankful? (2) To whom should you give thanks?
I am slowly learning to be thankful to myself for much of what I do, feel, and think. Variously formulated Christian theological doctrines such as original sin and total depravity wrongly and completely devalue humans. Created by God, each of is valuable and able to do good things. Low self-esteem and lack of self-respect are never part of the true humility that includes self-appreciation for those times when we faithfully walk in Jesus’ footsteps of sacrificial love.
Concurrently, I am learning to reject excessive self-reliance and independence in favor of a healthy, mutual interdependence with family, friends and others. Take Thanksgiving as an opportunity to habituate intentionally thanking those persons whose love enriches your life.
Finally, learn to thank God for life. Life is our real blessing from God, an idea captured in the classic Jewish toast of Le Chaim (to life). For in life – whether in the cosmos’ beauty, human creativity, our limited autonomy, or our self-awareness – we experience an echo or reflection of the divine. We can also experience God in the Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, strength and courage.
To thank God for more– such as rain that blesses us but harms others – implies that God loves us better or more completely than God loves those to whom God has apparently been less good, less kind. That is patently wrong. God loves all creation, and God loves all of God's daughters and sons equally.