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A Word On Gratitude (and a Thanksgiving Gift)

By John C. Maxwell | November 26, 2019
A Word On Gratitude (and a Thanksgiving Gift)

Thanksgiving is this week, and while you’re preparing your dishes and driving routes, I want to offer you a word on gratitude.

This post was originally shared on my blog in 2016, but I think it’s the right message for this year, so I hope you’ll read and enjoy. As a bonus, my team and I have put together a free gift for you to use this Thanksgiving — a set of questions that I use when my family comes together for the holiday.

I hope you enjoy your time, however and with whomever you spend it. And I want you to know how very thankful I am for you.

Your friend,


I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking a lot about turkey and stuffing lately. Of course, that’s because Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States. But food is not the only thing the holiday makes me think of. At this time of year, I’m reminded of the idea behind the day.

While the tradition dates to the 1620s, the official holiday didn’t come into existence until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation to set aside the last Thursday of November as a day for giving thanks. This was right in the middle of the American Civil War, yet despite the nation’s struggles, Lincoln recognized that there was still much to be grateful for.

So much, in fact, that he wanted all Americans to join him in his gratitude. Lincoln wrote:

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

One of the many things I admire about President Lincoln is the ability that he had to look beyond his circumstances, to see better things. While the Civil War threatened to tear the nation apart, he looked past the fighting and saw a day when the nation would be whole once again.

It was this vision that allowed him to see the hand of God moving with grace during one of our nation’s most trying periods. President Lincoln could see not only immediate blessings to be thankful for, but also greater blessings to come. He let his faith become sight, and it spurred him to gratitude.

That’s because gratitude doesn’t come from our circumstances; it comes from how we choose to see the world.

Quite simply, gratitude comes from your heart.

What about you? When this Thursday rolls around, what will you see in your life that deserves a moment of gratitude?

I encourage you to look at your life with fresh eyes and find one or two things that stand out to you as signs of great blessing. And when you’ve done that, tell someone what you’ve discovered – because gratitude is meant to be shared.

And just like President Lincoln, you’ll want to invite others to join you. Because once you can see everything for which you’re grateful, you’ll want the whole world to know the feeling.

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19 thoughts on "A Word On Gratitude (and a Thanksgiving Gift)"

  • Dan Williams says: November 26, 2019 at 11:06 am

    Thank you John for your thoughts on Thanksgiving. God bless you. Dan Williams

  • Brock Hartman says: November 26, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    John, you said, “One of the many things I admire about President Lincoln is the ability that he had to look beyond his circumstances, to see better things.” How amazing is it to see such excellent leadership vision during that dark and terrible time in our history.

    One of the great lessons I learned this morning was from Jon Gordon’s book, The Positive Dog. I was quick to share it with my team at work today, and it will be my main topic of conversation at my family’s Thanksgiving this year. We need to practice a simple work swap with the word have and get. Instead of saying, “I have to” use the work get in place of the work have and say, “I get to.” This simple word swap has been blowing my mind all day long. I encourage all of you to use this trick during Thanksgiving to see if it helps you and your loved ones increase their thankfulness for all we have.

    God Bless.

  • Patricia K. says: November 26, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Being thankful for the trials as they give the opportunity to grow.

  • Sue Deighton says: November 26, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Thank you, John for your thoughts and wisdom. I really appreciate the questions that you included. I thought that I was the only person that did this. I ask some of the same questions, but I am excited to add some of yours in to my Christmas blend (our Thanksgiving was celebrated in October).
    I wish all of you a lovely Thanksgiving. Enjoy!!!
    Sue Deighton

  • Tom Rea (Thankful) says: November 26, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    I love this “let his faith become sight,” I have never thought about it like that before. Thanks.
    The other day Paul Martinelli was talking about being grateful even long before having what it is that we are believing for. Perhaps it’s allowing our “faith to become sight.” To always live in a Perpetual state of gratitude, even while in the midst of doing without.
    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Patty Dreier says: November 26, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    A message I will share with others. Thank you President Lincoln and John C Maxwell. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned from both of you. Blessings to all!

  • Maria Goldstein says: November 26, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    President Lincoln still brings hope and a future view in this nation’s current troubling times. Dignity, honesty, faith, leadership.. President Lincoln had it all with gracious humility! Peaceful prosperity for the country he loved!
    Thank you John for always sharing the “good news”!

  • Kevin Ray says: November 26, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    As a police Captain, I shared this with my patrol team last week. Your blog today just kind of reaffirmed I should keep on keeping on: Charlie Team Captain’s Notes 11/12/19

    “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which everyone has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all have some.” – Charles Dickens

    I was researching some quotes on Thanksgiving and realized that it (the holiday) too, has been designated as offensive and non-inclusive by certain circles in the on-going political correctness revolution sweeping the nation. I presume this is in part due to the cruel and harsh treatment the Native Americans endured at the hands of the migrating Europeans of the day. The truth is, I suspect it is impossible to find within the archives of any people group on Earth, a history void of violent conquering and conquests of others. So, I suppose the question is, “Are we in err to have a day in which we are nationally THANKFUL simply based on ancestral sins?” I certainly don’t think so. Thankfulness and gratitude should hold a permanent place in our minds every day, but it doesn’t hurt to have a day set aside to remind us to be thankful we live in a free country. So now that K Ray has handled the Thanksgiving Hater nonsense. Allow me to give you an abridged version of my own personal list:

    I am thankful for my wife and daughters because they are kindness and goodness and devotion and loyalty and love that’s tangible. I am thankful for my career and Marisa’s career that has allowed us to provide for each other and our girls. I am thankful for my dad who raised me to stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves and led me towards my calling. I am thankful for my friends because they are always willing to remind me, I am not as important as I think I am sometimes. I am thankful for weekends like this last one where I was reminded of the beautiful things God has created as I walked with my bride of 22 years through the mountains filled with fall colors and waterfalls. I am thankful that my oldest daughter will be back on this continent Friday. I am thankful for all of you and every single morning that we all leave here and go back to our homes safely.

    We have to work this Thanksgiving. That’s the way it goes sometimes. I will be here with you. I hope and pray that each of us is able to carve out some time with family and/or friends this coming holiday season and that you take a second and think about your own list.

    Y’all Look out for Each Other.

    K. Ray

  • Heidi Maduhu says: November 27, 2019 at 11:25 am

    I’m crying, John! Not just because of your amazing post in which I felt the Holy Spirit touch my heart whilst reading President Lincoln’s timeless words but especially for the kick in the behind I needed today with respect to the citizens “sojourning in foreign lands” like me – although tomorrow is business as usual for the Brits, where I’ve made my home for nine years of my life, instead of wallowing in homesickness and victim woe-is-me mentality (as each year I’m tempted) – I must NOT negate my responsibility for gratefulness (past and present) and gratitude (for future) in my home here in England, and within our dual nationality home ???? and to never FORGET all “Thanksgiving and praise” due our Heavenly Father! We shall use the gift you’ve shared with us in so doing, and thank you for sharing it with us, John! ?

    And finally, just like you above K Ray ? after WORK tomorrow evening in my home – my children, my Brit husband and I will set aside some time to dwell on our many blessings that God Himself has seen it fit for us to receive: yes, He’s such a good GOOD Father! And in this, we’ll “handle some Thanksgiving Hater nonsense” of ourselves right here in England, K Ray – so thanks for the belly laugh and also thank you for your service, my friend! ???

  • Jaquelyn says: November 27, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    Happy thanks giving to every one let’s count failure is a way of success.

  • Laura Muirhead says: November 27, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    This was a timely thought provoking blog. Thank you for sharing it. ?

  • Laura;L. Muirhead says: November 27, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    Well said. Thanks for sharing.

  • Marion says: November 27, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    I vaguely remember my grandfather doing similar questions to yours at family gatherings when I was small. He didn’t even leave me out, though I was very small (four’ish). Sadly, that died when he and Gramma moved away. His was certainly a name to honour. I’ll re-start that tradition this year and, hopefully, it will carry on beyond me. Thank you, John!

  • Laura;L. Muirhead says: November 27, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Here here! I agree.

  • Yeri Ekomunajat says: November 28, 2019 at 6:49 am

    I am really thankful and feel blessed this week when my school in Indonesia won competitive grant to visit our partner school in Australia. It has been my long time dream since 2012 to visit Australia and God grant my wish this year. God has been working behind the scene to make my dream come true. What He bestows to us always exceed our expectation. Praise the name of the Lord now and forever.

  • Yessenia Gomez says: November 28, 2019 at 8:58 am

    Thank you Kindly Sir! Best words on gratitude I’ve come across thus far!
    Grateful for your kindness and ability to share messages of hope.

  • Lamar Bryan says: November 28, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    What an awesome example of a true leader! A leader who looked beyond the current circumstances of war and division and was able to find something to be grateful for in the midst of despair. To dedicate a day of appreciation for the grace of God that had and has been bestowed upon the American people is something I desire to always partake in and I also desire for my fellow citizens to do the same.

  • IDALINE MERALUS says: November 28, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving to You Johnmaxell, family and the entire Johnmaxeellteam. I’m so thankful for living in the United States and being part of such large organization. Apart from having my family I believe being part of the Johnmaxeellteam is one of the best gifts ? God has given for 2019. And I am grateful for that I don’t take it lightly. I believe with my commitment to follow the Johnmaxeellteam principles in leadership, it will allow me to reach my fullest potential in life.?

  • Abraham Msughter Nege says: November 29, 2019 at 8:11 am

    This is very true.
    That is gratitude doesn’t come from our circumstances; it comes from how we choose to see things.

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