How to Be Less Thankful

Late fall can be difficult. The daylight is fading, the weather (at least here in Pennsylvania) is getting cold, and there’s a gray dinginess in the air.

On top of environmental downers, people pop out of the woodwork to encourage us to be thankful. What a drag! How can we possibly give ourselves the focus we deserve when our friends are pointing out all the ways we should be grateful? It’s oppressive, I tell you.

If you’ve had enough of the thanksgiving police bullying you into a humble posture, this article is for you. Read on for some tried and true methods for growing in thanklessness.

Negative Advice

I’ve collected nine pieces of advice here to turn you into a thankless person.

Don’t think about what God has done

There’s a consistent theme in the Bible: Considering God’s deeds will fuel thankfulness (Psalm 9:126:7). We can’t have that.

We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. (Psalm 75:1)

Don’t think about other Christians

If you’re anything like the apostle Paul, when you think about how God has worked in the lives of other believers you’ll be filled with thanks (Philippians 1:3–5Ephesians 1:15–16). The first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians are just stuffed with this. So, while it might be hard, you’ll need to banish these thoughts.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4–8)

Don’t think about the body of Christ

Not only should you avoid thinking about God’s grace given to others, you must also dispel any thoughts of God’s people as one united body. Individual Christians are graciously brought into this loving family where peace and forgiveness are possible. The acceptance and compassion that you can experience in the church are sure to make you grateful, so put these thoughts far away.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12–17)

Don’t think about God’s character

The Old Testament Israelites sang frequently about God’s steadfast love. This love is a part of his character and the basis of his mighty works for his people.

This means that if you want to be less thankful, you must not ponder who God is and what he is like.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise? (Psalm 106:1–2)

Don’t think about God’s provision

A surefire way to be thankless is to develop an outsized notion of what you deserve and how much what you have is a result of your hard work and merit. Stay away from those teachings about humility, sin, and God’s providence.

The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:14–16)

Don’t read the Bible

To be safe, you probably shouldn’t get anywhere near the Bible if you want to be less thankful. And you certainly shouldn’t get anywhere near Psalm 100. The writer of that psalm composed those words specifically to aid in thanksgiving!

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3)

Don’t think about God’s redemption

The greatest, lasting work of God is his redeeming work. At a high price, he bought his people for himself that he might have them forever. Quite naturally, meditating on this gracious work of God will lead people to praise and thank him.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:8–9)

Don’t think about the gospel

Jesus came proclaiming the gospel of his kingdom. God’s redeeming work reached its climatic, essential summit in the suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. This is how God changes hearts and brings people to himself.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

Don’t eat

This last bit of advice is extreme, I’ll admit. It might be hard to pull off, particularly at this time of the year.

If you’re serious about becoming less thankful, you probably need to stay away from food. Especially for people who have spent a lot of time around the church, the beginning of a meal is the occasion for prayers of thanks. This groove may be so well worn in your brain that you are naturally inclined to thanksgiving before picking up your fork.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4–5)

A Sustaining Vision

If you’re starting this journey, it may seem like a long road ahead of you. You need a sustaining vision to get you through those difficult moments.

Think about the person you will be. As you become less and less thankful, you’ll become more entitled, more turned in on yourself, more lonely, more bitter, more critical, and more miserable overall.

Sounds like a plan!


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Post credit | Photo credit

Ruin Your Family Vacation in Six Easy Steps

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Taking a vacation with your family can make your year. Especially when they are young, children look forward to these trips for months and have piles of memories afterward.

Because a vacation can be such a balm for a family, parents want everything to be perfect. But there are so, so many ways to fall short of perfect! Most of us are okay with imperfection, but we’d like to avoid disaster.

Partly out of my own experience, I offer six ways to ruin your family vacation. Though it may be too late for this summer, file these suggestions away for the future.

1. Ignore your children.

The kids will want to do childish things on vacation, like build sand castles, play in the water, and visit amusement parks. If you want to rest, you need a break from your kids. Let your spouse or parents handle the children as much as possible.

You might think you’re missing an opportunity to spend time with your kids. But you work so hard, right? Put your feet up and nap. You’ve earned it.

2. Be tight with time and money.

Your children will ask for LOTS of things on vacation. But stay strong; don’t go beyond the minimum. Money is tight and time is precious. Let this be your mantra.

Say no to the extra scoop of ice cream, the additional hour at the park, and the last ride on the carousel. Your budget and schedule are more important than these simple joys.

3. Be distracted.

Vacations offer a great chance to build relationships and engage in conversations. But that doesn’t sound very relaxing, does it? So make sure you’re not present.

Hang around in the background, but take your mind and attention elsewhere. Put your nose in a device and convince everyone that you’re busy with Important Things. (Acting annoyed can help, just ask George Costanza.)

4. Insist on your own way.

Let your family know the places and activities you enjoy, and push hard to prioritize all of them.

In the interest of fairness, you’ll probably have to go to some places you don’t love. As you get dragged along, make sure your mood is sufficiently sour to ruin the experience for everyone else. If you make your displeasure known (non-verbally, of course), then next time you’ll either be left out or the activity will be cut from the schedule. Either way, you win!

5. Don’t lift any burdens.

Though vacations present an opportunity to bless others, don’t go out of your way to do anything extra. You need your rest.

The person in your house who cooks, who does the laundry, who cares for the children most of the time? Let them carry on as usual, unless that happens to be you. In this case, insist on your right to a break. Enlist someone else to take up your slack (and try to ignore the hypocrisy).

6. Abandon all spiritual practices.

Vacation is about rest and fun. So, cast aside anything that feels like work, including your spiritual disciplines.

It’s easier to read a novel than the Bible, right? Who wants to pray as a family when you can watch TV instead?

By taking a break from your spiritual life, you tell your family (and especially your children) that there is no joy in following Christ, only duty. You also communicate that it’s okay to set aside your efforts to love and obey God whenever the mood strikes.

The Big Idea

There are lots of ways to ruin a family vacation; I’ve just picked the low-hanging fruit. The big idea is to make the vacation all about you. Don’t serve others, and don’t make any sacrifices.

If you follow these steps, you’ll not only ruin your vacation, but you’ll be well on your way to poisoning all of your family relationships.


Photo Credit: anonymous (2009), public domain

How to Fall Through the Cracks at Church

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Many churches are looking to welcome visitors and help them get connected. They want an active congregation, involved in both the work of the church and in the lives of others.

But let’s be honest. That’s a real drag.

Between work and family, you have plenty of people making demands on you. You want the church to be there for you on Sunday and in the event of a crisis. Otherwise, you don’t want to be bothered.

It’s easy to find advice on connecting with a church. It’s harder to locate help resisting this type of connection. I’m here to serve.

The Most Important Principle

Let’s put the best advice on the table: keep to yourself. As much as possible, dodge every opportunity for a deep conversation or friendship.

This is more difficult that it sounds. Avoiding others is easy in an office setting, but most churches are full of people who want to nose their way into your life.

You’ll need to walk a thin line. While you don’t want extra people around, you need to convince the church you’re on the inside. The last thing you want is someone to “evangelize” you. That’s the worst.

Practical Matters

To keep those church folks at arm’s length, consider these practical matters.

Choose your seat carefully. — You might be tempted to sit in the last row, but this is a rookie mistake. Seasoned church-goers know this is where avoiders lurk, and they’ll pounce. Instead, aim for 2/3 of the way back in the sanctuary. Here you’ll sidestep the over-eager, way-too-nice families in the front half of the room, but you’ll escape the target that comes with the last row. Grab an aisle seat for a quick exit.

Greet the pastor. — That preacher dude is fast. You’ll never beat him to the exit, so resign yourself to a handshake. Compliment his sermon. Most pastors obsess about their preaching, so this flattery gives you cover to slip out the door.

Act busy. — Nosy Christians will shift into gear when you attend the same church a few weeks in a row. Be prepared: they’re going to start inviting you. To what? To everything. Extra services, prayer meetings, Sunday school, small groups, Bible studies, fellowship meals, you name it. It’s exhausting. The key here is to act busy. Feign interest in the group or class or project they’re promoting, and decline with an apology. After all, you have work/kids’ activities/family time, right?

Attend irregularly. — Don’t attend every week. Make it a point to miss at least one Sunday each month.

Hide. — Not literally, but practically. Wait as long as possible to fill out a contact card, because then they have you. With your phone number, address, or email, they can visit or get in touch with you. Ick. Be polite but withdrawn. Make sure you’re slow to return calls, texts, or emails. With apologies, of course.

Keep conversation fluffy. — Sooner or later, you’ll get trapped in a conversation. Try to steer discussion toward work, weather, or sports. If that doesn’t last, lean on Christian clichés: Mention how much God has blessed you, but focus only on health and safety. Complain about how little regard our culture has for Christianity. Give off an aura of thoughtfulness, but don’t get specific—that might open the door to a follow-up question next week.

Bad News Ahead

Now, for the bad news. You’ve got difficult work ahead of you. In fact, the only foolproof way to slip through the cracks at a good church is to stop attending.

See, those church people aren’t just reaching out because they want a bigger club. They actually love you and want good things for you. They know that connecting with Christians can have a profound spiritual impact on your life.

Brace yourself.


Photo Credit: Nathan, Creative Commons License