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How to Handle Not Being Thankful on Thanksgiving

How to Handle Not Being Thankful on Thanksgiving

Tis’ the season for being grateful and giving thanks.  Extended families gather to share a traditional meal.  We remember the pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving.  Perhaps your family goes around the room giving each person a chance to share what they are most appreciative of this year.  But, what do you do if you don’t feel thankful during the Thanksgiving season?  What do you do when you feel like dwelling on what you wish you had instead of what you do?


Own Your Feelings

If you are taking the time to read this, you have probably not had an easy year, or an easy life for that matter.  Or, perhaps, you’re hoping to find something that you can use to help a loved one or friend.  Working in healthcare for so many years, I have seen many people struggle with terrible losses, being victims of horrific crimes, receiving terminal medical diagnoses and losing hope that things can get better.

The first step in dealing with the “Thanksgiving Blues” is to acknowledge that what you are feeling is real.  Someone may have hurt you in a way that has left deep wounds or scars.  You may be missing someone who had their life cut short due to no fault of their own.  You may be the brunt of cruel jokes, bullying, or being looked over on a routine basis.

One of the reasons why what happens to us can knock us down so hard is because we think our “earthly existence” is all we get.  We don’t realize, don’t understand, or forget that we have an afterlife to consider also, a “heavenly existence.”  Sometime God uses difficulty in our lives to touch the lives of others.  Personally, I have struggled with and overcome depression.  Over the years, God has often opened the door for me to discuss my experience with others.  Knowing that God is always with me and willing to comfort me, and that His purposes are greater than my own, makes even the toughest days more tolerable.

Psalm 23:4
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Decide to Look on the Bright Side

Even when life is not going our way, and we feel like we’ve either lost or are losing control, we still have power.  We have the power to decide how we will feel.  We also have the power to decide what we will do next.

Our feelings are meant to help us identify danger and to guide our responses to life.  If you’re walking alone in a high crime area, and you feel a sense of danger, it’s probably time to get out of there as quickly as possible.  If you’re feeling sad or lonely, it’s time to spend time around people who can lift your mood.

So, when you’re not feeling thankful, you can make some decisions about that feeling too.  First, feelings come and go and whatever you’re feeling now is likely to pass.  Second, even if you the right to be bummed, decide not to let the experience keep steeling from you.  You’ve already lost something, take action to put an end to the bleeding.  Third, decide that the feeling is a warning sign and it’s now time to change direction.

As a former critical care nurse, I have seen individuals who might not get their next breath.  I’ve seen people who rarely enjoyed a moment without pain.  And I’ve known clients who could not relax without heavy sedation.  Most of us are not dealing with issues so profound.  We have plenty of things we can focus on and choose to be thankful for those things.  If you need help getting started, look at the Gratitude Journal Prompt.  It has 30 great ideas to get you going.

Be Someone’s Reason for Thanks

Whether you realize it or not, you are very special and have something wonderful to give to others.  It may be something simple like a warm smile, a hug, or just being there for them.  There are a handful of people in my life that would make my day if they showed that they cared.  A call, an impromptu visit, or a hand-written card would mean the world to me.

Stop thinking about yourself and your own troubles for a little while and be someone’s reason for thanks today!  In addition to people you see on a regular basis; consider reaching out to someone from your past.  Also, think about being there for someone you don’t even know.  There are many ways to volunteer and help others in need.  Anything from working in a soup kitchen, to mentoring young boys and girls, to babysitting can work.  Be creative and find a way to change your focus from receiving to giving.

Win the Battle

If you believe in God, you automatically become a solider in the Lord’s army.  That may sound like a children’s hymn from years ago, but it has a great deal of truth in it.  There is an invisible, spiritual battle going on around us all the time.  And the only way to win the battle is to arrive prepared and then kick some spiritual behind.

(Ephesians. 6:11-12)
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

Here is an excellent link to a discussion of the Armor of God if you would like to read more about it.  The Armor is described as having the following parts:

None of us learns to battle the enemy overnight; it takes time and practice to do it well.  The enemy wants you to be miserable and to become paralyzed by bad circumstances.  But God wants you to be victorious.  He will provide all the tools you need in order to succeed!

Reflection Questions

  1. What types of things are causing you to feel less than thankful during this Thanksgiving season?
  2. Do you need to put a stop to the bleeding and decide to move in a new direction?
  3. What can you do today that will cause someone to be thankful for you?

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