The Virtue of Thanksgiving

It’s safe to say the act of giving thanks is waning in our culture. The holiday comes and goes each year in much the same fashion, but truly giving thanks is almost foreign to us. However, thanksgiving is a virtue.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” – Cicero

Current societal obsessions include social justice, gender inequity, and class envy. Each comes from comparing one’s surroundings or circumstances with another person’s, and allowing discontent to fester. These resentments prove that lack of thankfulness is really the foundation upon which frustrations grow.

We can easily list virtues of honor, compassion, charity, humility, faith, grace, joy, and perseverance, but ultimately, thankfulness isn’t one we’re quick to include. Why is that? Because today’s culture can be categorized as a “more is never enough” culture. Our obsession with stuff is obvious. The high we get from amassing said stuff is fleeting, we’re left bored and dissatisfied, and ungratefulness grows.

There is no better example than Black Friday shopping. Actually, many places have turned it into Black Thursday shopping. The official Thanksgiving holiday is not even sacred, and too many of us are rushing through festivities in order to secure a place in line…to buy more stuff. It serves as a band-aid on top of our envy. Briefly, our wants our meet, and briefly, we feel satisfied. But this is not thankfulness at all.

At my brother and sister-in-law’s home, this phrase hangs on the wall: “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for”. I’m not sure about you, but I know me, and I know that such a phrase feels good to say in the moments when things are going well. When things aren’t going well I prefer to avoid that thought. It’s a nagging reminder that despite current dissatisfaction, I’m forgetting the one thing – thankfulness – which should be life’s undercurrent. And that thankfulness, for me personally, as an imperfect Christian, cannot be directed anywhere else but God. For who am I giving thanks to if not to Him?

It’s quite obvious that America needs simplification. There is too much filler, too many distractions, too many TV channels, and too much padding to carry us from morning to night. Strip all that away, and there’s a nagging feeling of wanting more. I think it’s clear that the simplicity – and virtue – of giving thanks is what we’re missing.