How does your faith express thanks?
JACK MCLEAN is a Bahá’í scholar, teacher, essayist and poet published in the fields of spirituality, Bahá’í theology and poetry.
Giving thanks is a spiritual attitude that is prescribed in all the world’s great religions. It is rendering back to God, or to one another, what is freely bestowed as blessing. Giving thanks is closely related to two other higher spiritual virtues---praise and gratitude. Praise and gratitude for the many, inestimable favours of the Almighty, including life itself, are universal among followers of all religions.
There are three ways to give thanks: with the tongue; in the heart; through our deeds. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son and successor of today’s Divine Messenger, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), and the authorized interpreter of his father’s teachings, said that verbal thanksgiving is the least effective expression of thanksgiving because the words spoken may not necessarily correspond to the actual feeling of the heart: “One may say thank you a thousand times while the heart remains thankless, ungrateful.
Therefore, mere verbal thanksgiving is without effect.” He goes on to say that genuine, spontaneous, heart-felt thanks is real: “But real thankfulness is a cordial giving of thanks from the heart. When man in response to the favors of God manifests susceptibilities of conscience, the heart is happy, the spirit is exhilarated. These spiritual susceptibilities are ideal thanksgiving”.
The third and highest type of thankfulness is not through words or feelings but through deeds: “There is a cordial thanksgiving, too, which expresses itself in the deeds and actions of man when his heart is filled with gratitude.
For example, God has conferred upon man the gift of guidance, and in thankfulness for this great gift certain deeds must emanate from him. To express his gratitude for the favors of God man must show forth praiseworthy actions. In response to these bestowals he must render good deeds, be self-sacrificing, loving the servants of God, forfeiting even life for them, showing kindness to all the creatures” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 236).
A special sort of soul-quality is required to give thanks when troubles descend: “Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity” (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 284). But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gives a formula that all can practice: “The best way to thank God is to love one another” (Promulgation, p. 468).
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