We’re just days away. Thanksgiving really does come before Christmas, although you wouldn’t know from the jingly commercials on TV. Thanksgiving has sadly become little more than the official start of the holiday season, and that’s a shame.

We have so much to be thankful for. Our salvation, grace, mercy, family, friends — the list goes on and on. When it comes to authentic thankfulness, are you practicing it correctly?

My love language is words of affirmation. And like all languages from Gary Chapman’s book, “5 Love Languages,” people can use them improperly. When people affirm, thank or try to encourage with words, they assume that almost anything can “work.” However, like all communications, the slightest issue can make your goodwill disingenuous.

People have been burned by authenticity issues, sarcasm and the feeling of “being used.” It’s critical to communicate thankfulness properly so people truly feel your gratitude. And I know that’s what you ultimately want since so many people help ministries function properly as the hands and feet of Christ.

Here are two things to consider when chatting with others at Thanksgiving:

1. Don’t have other motives.

There are often times when someone pours praise out, waits a few seconds, then asks for something. Let this Thanksgiving be a time to truly voice thankfulness to fellow members of your congregation, friends, and those to whom you minister with absolutely no other motive; just be thankful for them. Maybe even offer them something to reinforce your thankfulness.

Example: “Sarah, I’m truly thankful for how you’ve been able to minister to the kids in your Sunday school class. Please let me know if I can ever do anything for you or if you ever need a break from teaching.”

2. Speak thankfulness into who someone is and not just what they did.

A list of to-do items completed may receive praise, but true thankfulness shows gratitude for who someone has become. It takes more work to discover how to voice this, but that’s exactly why it’s received with greater value. It also reinforces the message of inward change that motivates our outward service.

Example: “Ben, you’re so dependable every week with your service. I’m so thankful that I can rely on you. You’re truly a God-send. Thank you.”

The few words said following these traits will linger in someone’s heart much longer than a quick thank you. This week, think of several people who truly deserve some encouragement, and you become the messenger. You’ll be glad you did.

Want even more impact? Write a shorthand note and drop it in the mail to them. It’s truly worth the price of the stamp.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Happy Thanksgiving 2