By Michael Fiffik – Elder
It’s the season for making resolutions. Maybe you made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthy or call your Mom more often. Lent is quickly approaching and invites you to again make resolutions to give up something in symbolic sacrifice. Sticking to these resolutions is a real test of willpower but often our emotions undermine us. We know we should choose that salad, but our desire for the fries that we smell at the table next to us overcomes our willpower. Our emotions seem like they’re our enemy but that’s not necessarily true.
Emotions help us decide what to do next. They are our God-given internal program for navigating the future. Emotions can be powerful motivators too. They can help us accomplish difficult tasks. Think of how good you felt after exercising or the congratulations you received from friends at church after accomplishing a task. The positive emotions associated with those accomplishments can stoke and maintain a desire in us to continue doing difficult things.
If you’re lacking motivation to get started, we’d like to suggest a starting point to build up your will power and self-control. With all things start with the cross and with gratitude – it’s a super powerful emotion.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
People who experience more gratitude have more will power and self-control. The Bible tells us this as does science. Even more powerful is when your gratitude isn’t just focused on yourself. If you engage in outward expressions of gratitude for others around you – it helps you and your social network. They feel valued by you. They, in turn, will value you and more willingly express gratitude for you. You’ll be more willing to sacrifice to help others and they you.
Focusing on gratitude is associated with a wide array of benefits – the quality of your relationships will improve; you’ll experience reduced stress and even have lower incidence of illness. “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24.
When you’re involved in a social network of gratitude, it can serve to support and sustain your will power and self-control. It’ll help you maintain those resolutions, develop those new physically and spiritually healthy habits when your ability to help yourself is quite up to the task.
So, practice a little gratitude – it’s good for you!