My new job comes with new hours, so at 5:30 a.m. now I wake up with my hair on fire.
The morning routine is chaos. I dart into the bathroom and have a garbled conversation with my husband through a mouthful of toothpaste. I shower and dress and pick out the wrong shoes and look for better shoes and throw my lunch and ID and wallet into a bag and eventually, somehow, my husband and I both emerge from the house to our cars in one piece.
Because of this, my husband – who has more time than I do, being a man and far less worried with the rigors of hair and makeup – makes my morning coffee. It’s a habit he started out of the goodness of his heart when I started my new job, and every single morning it’s a little quiet I-love-you: my little travel mug filled to the brim with a latte he made.
I love him, and I love this. So I thank him for it. I thank him specifically for it.
Instead of “Hey, you’re a great husband” or “Hey, I love the things you do,” I try to say, “I’m so grateful you make me coffee in the mornings! It makes my whole day!”
I started doing this when I realized how good it felt to be thanked specifically. When I do something for someone, even when it’s small, and they notice and express gratitude – or when they thank me for something I haven’t even thought of – it makes me feel seen. Appreciated. It’s a completion of the act of love in the most basic form: a giving and a warm receiving.
That’s why I’ve been surprised, as I try to sharpen up my gratitude in my Christian walk, at how generic my gratitude often is. “Thanks, God. Thanks for being good. Thanks for being great. Thanks for who You are. Thanks for what You do.” Those things are all true, but they’re also profoundly vague and profoundly generic. And while I’m sure God appreciates gratitude, period, there is something special about specific gratitude.
In particular, specific gratitude forces us to focus in-depth on the object of our gratitude. It demands our investment and involvement in the details. It also forces a shift in our perspective. When we say things like “God, thanks for being great,” we’re addressing something nebulous and vague and over-arching, something not terribly connected to our day or our attitude or the moment. But when we say, “God, thank you for being a God who is willing to hear me out, always, even when I’m angry,” we focus in on something that forces our attention and our focus.
And it does change the way you frame your perspective. I have a tendency, because of an anxiously-minded personality, to focus on the fret-worthy details, all the tiny things that don’t go the way I’d like them to go. I get frustrated over feeling rushed when I have to complete a project, or not getting the information I need quickly enough, or someone else’s bad mood. But when I focus on specific instances of gratitude – the project got finished on time, I got the information eventually, and I was able to cheer someone up – it changes the way I think about that day. It transforms from a day full of irritations and annoyances to a day full of wonderful things.
When I am focused on being specifically grateful, I complain less. I notice good things more. I see different aspects of God’s character and quiet, subtle ways He is working in my life. My attitude shifts. I begin to look forward to more things to be specifically grateful for, and I move into a cycle of receptive gratitude.
And – this is the most important part – because of being specifically grateful, on those occasions that I throw up a “hey God, thanks for everything,” I am staggered because I understand fully precisely what everything actually means.
Get specific in your gratitude. It’ll do you a world of good.