It’s hip to be sad and melancholy, and righteous indignation can make you seem important, but we often forget about the importance of the positive virtues in life. We are beginning a new series on the positive virtues of the Christian life exploring why we ought to be serious about our pursuit of things like gratitude, forgiveness, and joy.
Virtues are teleological. Teleology simply refers to the goal that defines where we are going or who we want to become. It’s forward looking.
The New York Times columnist and author David Brooks wrote a book called The Road to Character, and in it he provides a helpful visual. He talks about RESUME virtues and EULOGY virtues. Resume virtues are the accomplishments we list on our resume — the things we achieve, accumulate, or accomplish to feel like we matter or are better than others. Resume virtues are external. Eulogy virtues are the things we hope people say about us when we die – whether we were kind, loving, honest, brave, faithful, and what kind of relationships we formed. They are the important parts of our character that we sometimes forget as we pursue resume virtues. Eulogy virtues are internal. We have a severe deficiency in our focus on eulogy virtues. Eulogy virtues are teleological. They focus on what we want to become. This series is about Eulogy virtues.
And today we are talking about gratitude.
There’s a fascinating book that came out this year called The Science of Virtue: Why Positive Psychology Matters to the Church by Mark McMinn. This book is a key text that we will be using in this series on virtue. Historically, there hasn’t been much integration of positive psychology into the church that can be used in creative ways to help people. This book is about how churches and counselors can learn from the academic side of positive psychology.
“Here is the telos of gratitude, summarized in three basic steps…First, we recognize a gift is being offered, however undeserving we may deem ourselves to be. Second, we recognize the source of the gift to be outside ourselves. Someone else is offering us this gift. Third, rather than resisting the gift and insisting on our own sufficiency, we gratefully receive it, acknowledging the goodness of the gift and the giver.” – Mark McMinn
In other words,
We recognize the gift.
We recognize the giver.
We receive the gift and the giver.
Remember the story of the Samaritan leper? He set the example.
The invitation is to become like the leper: Someone who sees (horao), with your eyes and your heart, and gives thanks (yadah), actively and whole-heartedly, to the Gift Giver.
This is the simple rhythm of gratitude – humbly noticing the gift, seeing the Giver, and receiving both.