Thanksgiving 2022: What Are the Benefits of Praise? | opinion

On Thanksgiving, my family follows a homemade ritual my mom invented years ago. We gather in a circle and pass around a bowl of candy corn. Each person takes a piece and “plants” it (by eating it) in remembrance of the first Thanksgiving, and then recounts one or more blessings received during the year. After this thank you ritual, we feast together – on love as well as on lunch.

Thanksgiving has a special appeal for me. Less tainted by commercialization than any other major holiday, Thanksgiving still seems rooted in its original purpose. It remains a distinctively American holiday with a unique origin in our history. It is also a universal harvest festival, similar to that celebrated by virtually all agricultural societies at all times. So it puts me in touch with America and with people everywhere who give thanks. I’m grateful that despite the overlapping of football and Black Friday, Thanksgiving is still a day of thanksgiving.

I believe in thanking. It’s good for the soul. Like the mercy in Portia’s speech in The Merchant of Venice, thanksgiving is doubly blessed: “It blesses those who give and those who take.”

This Thanksgiving, I reflect on how praise and thanksgiving bless those who offer them. That’s why I’m writing praise after praise today.

In his Reflections on the Psalms, CS Lewis poses an intriguing question: why do religious people demand and God command us to praise him?

What satisfaction can God possibly derive from our praise? Finally, Lewis quips, “I don’t want my dog ​​barking approval of my books.”

This question leads Lewis to an important discovery about praise. We praise not just to compliment one another, but to complete our own enjoyment. Lewis writes:

“I had never noticed that all joy spontaneously turns into praise. … The world resounds with praise – lovers praise their beloved, readers their favorite poet, wanderers praise the landscape, gamblers praise their favorite game. … I hadn’t noticed how the most humble and at the same time balanced and comprehensive minds received the most praise, while the weirdos, misfits, and malcontents gave the least praise. … Praise seems to be inner health made almost audible. …”

He continues: “I think we are happy to praise what we enjoy because praise not only expresses the pleasure but completes it; it is its appointed completion. Lovers don’t tell each other how beautiful they are out of compliments; joy is incomplete until expressed.”

I like to think that praise is the consummation of pleasure. This is an accomplishment that we should indulge in often, more than once a year.

As Rabbi Benjamin Blech notes, “God doesn’t really need to hear ‘thank you.’ Yet we must become people who never fail to be grateful. How shameful to go through life without thanking God for His gifts. Get in the habit of taking divine blessings for granted, and you will be just as unkind to your parents, your husband or wife, or your friends. Who would want to be in a relationship with someone like that?

Who actually?

The apostle Paul exhorts us not only to “weep with those who weep,” but also to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” Most of us have a harder time with the latter than the former. Instead of rejoicing with those who rejoice, we too often selfishly indulge and envy them.

Learning to give thanks and praise, not just for the sake of our own souls, but for the sake of society, is crucial. What we praise rightly sets norms about the good, the true, and the beautiful, just as what we praise wrongly sets degrading norms. Everyone suffers when we “call good evil and evil good.” Praise what really deserves praise makes the inner health of institutions and individuals audible. Therefore our halls and houses should resound daily with praise and thanksgiving

Notice that God ended each day of creation with a blessing. He even praised his own creations. He set an example for all of us. As President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught, we should end each day in blessing, praise, and thanksgiving by asking, “Have I seen the hand of God? to touch us, our children, or our family today?”

Such reflection softens the heart and prepares the soul for a harvest of faith.

This Thanksgiving, then, invites us to follow the example of the pilgrims who “brought safely to shore… fell on their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had carried them across the vast and furious ocean,” as William Bradford wrote in Of The Plimoth Plantation.”

John S. Tanner is Past President of BYU-Hawaii, BYU Academic Vice President, and Chair of the English Department. He is the author of the award-winning book, Anxiety in Eden: A Kierkegaardian Reading of Paradise Lost, about John Milton.


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