As many Christian songs express and as the classic sing-along from veggie tales suggests, having a grateful heart makes a person’s life more whole and breathes life into their communication. The song “What Can I Do” by Paul Baloche captures the many gifts of God and the Christian’s response of gratitude. In Luke 6:45, Jesus tells his disciples the principle that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Here Jesus shows that the attitude that someone harbors in their heart eventually flows out into their communication and actions, affecting their relationships. Therefore the first step in cultivating good interpersonal relationships is having a proper attitude.
There are three types of people when it comes to communicating: displeased, indifferent, and grateful communicators. Displeased communicators complain about the negatives of situations or highlight the bad or substandard in others. Indifferent communicators show little concern or intentionality in their relationships and take a passive approach to relationships. However, grateful communicators express thanks for what they view to be gifts and blessings, whether it is people, situations, or God’s overarching grace. These communicators tend to be encouraging and intentionally loving toward others.
When put so plainly, this grateful attitude seems like a good thing for young Christian communicators to practice. Indeed it is! In fact it proves itself to be an attitude consistent with Scripture in which we are told to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). But how do we practice or cultivate an attitude of the heart?
Thankfulness, like other attitudes, grows in our hearts as we practice it. It seems like a circular thought that our actions come from the heart yet our behaviors help change our attitude. Yet with a mind focused on pleasing God and a heart calling upon the Holy Spirit for help, Christians are able to practice gratitude. By regularly considering and expressing gratefulness to God and to others, making lists of what you are grateful for, and imitating other thankful people, you are able to take steps to practice having a thankful heart. Still, only God can ultimately change the heart, so Christians need to call upon the Holy Spirit in humility and trust that he will do the work of changing the heart since God has already shown his love for us by working out his own salvation for his children.
Ultimately, when seeking God and being thankful for all of his gracious gifts and being thankful for people, we live more abundant and whole lives as we are directed away from selfish, manipulative, indifferent, critical communication toward life-giving, encouraging interpersonal relationships.
Schultze, Quentin; Badzinski, Diane: An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication. chapter 1