My rating: 1 of 5 stars
The author presented this book to me as a Christian book, so, regretfully, I listed it in the free Christian books section of my newsletter. I admit I did not make it very far into the book. The definition of gratitude on page 1 of the Introduction was all I needed to know this book does not present a biblical conception of gratitude.
He defines gratitude as “an expression of thankfulness.” This is not a definition. It is merely a synonym. What is gratitude? Thankfulness. What is thankfulness? Gratitude. Simply renaming a word is not the same as describing what it means.
Every parent knows it’s possible for a child to say the words, “thank you” without being thankful. We know intuitively that gratitude is more than merely expressing words.
What is it, then? The secular conception is that gratitude is the enjoyment of a gift. On Thanksgiving day, a family goes around the table and say what they are thankful for. “I’m thankful for my children.” “I’m thankful for good health,” etc.
Again the folly of this definition is seen in a child who receives a gift, turns his back with no acknowledgment of the giver, and runs off and thoroughly enjoys the gift. That is not gratitude, no matter how much he enjoys it. Often the expressions of “gratitude” at Thanksgiving have nothing to do with gratitude. They are simply expressions of gladness. “I’m thankful for my health” means nothing more than “I’m glad I have health.” Being glad to have something is not the same as being thankful for it.
Is gratitude the acknowledgement of the giver then? This is closer, but still falls short. If an enemy, whom I hate, gives me a gift, I can acknowledge he gave it, enjoy the gift, and continue to hate the giver. That’s not gratitude.
Gratitude is not fundamentally a matter of speaking, acknowledging, or enjoying the gift. Gratitude is relational. How do we know when our children are thankful for a gift? You can tell how thankful a child is by the tightness of the hug he gives you when he receives it. Gratitude is not enjoyment of the gift; it is enjoyment of the love expressed by the giver.
“I am thankful for my children” is a meaningless statement. Gratitude must have a person as its object. The proper statement would be, “I am thankful to God for my children.” If you see them as a gift from God and as a gesture of his love, and your delight in your kids is a conscious enjoyment of God’s love for you, causing your heart to swell with love back to him, that is gratitude.
In contrast to that view of gratitude, the introduction to Paul David’s book defines gratitude in the secular sense. In the introduction, David says you should be thankful “to your own curiosity about this book’s contents.” When I read that statement, I searched the entire electronic version of the book for the word “God.” Zero occurrences. I would suggest it is impossible to write a book on the Christian concept of gratitude without ever using the word “God.”
I didn’t finish the book. My guess is it is a book touting the benefits of positive thinking and acknowledging positive realities in your life. I agree that’s healthier than grumbling, but it is not Christian gratitude.
For a good treatment of Christian gratitude I recommend Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.