Grateful teens

A Christian Science perspective.

It’s not about the money.

A recent study focused on the effect of gratitude on teenagers. There are a lot of reasons teens are grateful. And being rich isn’t necessarily one of them. Similarly, there are plenty of reasons teens might act as if they had a gratitude deficit. Being poor doesn’t necessarily seem to be one of them.

The study suggests that regardless of a teenager’s socioeconomic background, he or she can experience the benefits of a grateful heart, including the benefit of better mental health. Through a few changes in outlook, attitude, and behavior, he or she can make big gains on the gratitude front. Teens who are the most grateful find a number of benefits multiplying. Such as? Things like improved academic performance, a sense of purpose, more hope, and more happiness. As these take root, they grow more common to a teen’s outlook and more natural to his or her life. On the flip side, things like hopelessness or depression – which are at times linked to suicide in teens – grow less prevalent.

Good examples from peers can be a huge help. But keep in mind that parents, teachers, coaches, and guidance counselors can join as a powerful force for good through the examples they set. That can mean being visible and vocal in ways that teens can see and hear and comprehend. The more you say your thank-yous and also live them, the more likely that your behavior on the gratitude front becomes the very thing teens notice and then model.

Study author Giacomo Bono – a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills – suggests the following. “Talk about what you’re grateful for, and ask your kids what they appreciate.... Talking about gratitude helps guide us all to the things that matter most.” Good counsel to be sure, even if it is not exactly new.

Bible readers might pause and smile. The message, “in every thing give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:18), is recorded in the Bible, and this theme stretches back for at least 2,000 years. Such gratitude isn’t really the result of tinkering with the human mind, as if coaxing a mentality to a more positive place. That’s not the need. Real gratitude, at its purest and highest, doesn’t originate with the human mind at all. It not only goes to the heavenly Father of us all, it has its source in Him as well. All good originates in God, including the good we know as gratitude.

Perhaps the most awesome example of straight-from-the-Father and straight-to-the-Father gratitude appears in the New Testament. It was four days after Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus, had died. When Jesus got on the scene, what was the prayer the Master employed? The prayer of gratitude. “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always” (John 11:41, 42). In the moments that followed, Jesus overthrew discouragement, despair, and defeat – mortality itself. He replaced them with hope, with conviction in the Father’s presence, with confidence, and with irrefutable proof of our immortality. He raised Lazarus from the dead. Even if that seems an event far beyond our present capacity as prayerful people, it at least points us in the right direction. It at least hints at the possibilities. God-focused gratitude has fathomless promise.

Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy discovered there is a Science to what Jesus did. There is a law of divine certainty that underpinned his healing proofs. Mrs. Eddy once wrote, “God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for tomorrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment. What a glorious inheritance is given to us through the understanding of omnipresent Love! More we cannot ask: more we do not want: more we cannot have” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 307). Reasons for gratitude – in teen and non-teen alike – continue to multiply.

From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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