I’m unsure if I’m not a lot different to other people but I’ve always been searching for the answer, or perhaps better put, the answers (plural) to life. The title above is a sweeping statement promising ‘an answer,’ or at least an answer in three parts. I offer it in one quote. So, here goes:
“Nothing taken for granted, everything received with gratitude, everything passed on with grace.”
This pithy saying was apparently G.K. Chesterton’s chief goal in life. It’s broken down three ways:
1. Don’t make assumptions (‘nothing taken for granted’)
We’ve presumably heard that to assume things means to make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’ Making assumptions is the good way to get life wrong and end up miserable. We must be disciplined enough to confirm the important details of life; those which we regard as fact.
This part, whilst dependent on not making assumptions, is more, however. It’s saying “thank you” even when you don’t ordinarily need to. It’s acknowledging people especially and not regarding what they do as ‘normal’ i.e. the expected. It’s appreciating and noting the simple things. And this is what lends itself to happiness--appreciating the simple things.
It’s taking time to elevate and appreciate the mundane and routine. It’s seeing the awe in those things most of us take for granted. It’s wonder in life.
2. Be a grateful ‘customer’ always (‘everything received with gratitude’)
This is not too far a leap from the first part of the quote. It is possible to in all circumstances remain positive, hopeful and grateful; but we don’t get there without a lot of work and a special ‘ours only’ journey through life. (God loves us so much he wouldn’t cheat us out of our own unique journey of self-discovery.)
Whilst some might think this that being able to remain positive, hopeful and grateful regarding everything in life is ludicrous, it’s a fact, and it’s back biblically.
This generates its own happiness in that our mental and emotional responses are fortified even before the issue comes; we’re prepared in our hearts and minds to receive well. It’s our default position; our habit. Every habit must be developed, practiced.
3. Always ‘supply’ abundantly, gracefully (‘everything passed on with grace’)
Our abundance is generated from what we receive and how we receive it. This is the most important part to the saying in my view for so often we’re initiating things in our relationships. So often we’re anything but graceful.
Even if we receive something hard i.e. an offense, we can absorb it emotionally before we respond in grace, which is a kindness perhaps not deserved by the person who offended us.
Think of this. How often do we see people respond this way? When we do we tend to instinctually admire them. Grace reeks of both the humility of submission and the strength of heart to protect both ourselves and others, making the absolute best of any situation (see Romans 8:28).
Putting these three parts together again
When we show the diligence of discipline to check the little things in our understandings with people; when we gratefully receive everything; and, when we offer out grace, kindness and encouragement, we are finally on our way to the most basic form of contentment and purpose of our lives.
If there was one way to completely formularise life--and I don’t believe there truly is--this advice of G.K. Chesterton’s would basically suffice. It was profound enough for him, his chief thought.
He added at one time, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
‘Thankfulness (gratitude) is the parent of all virtue.’ –Cicero.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
 This page is titled “G.K. Chesterton on Thankfulness” posted at Thanksgiving 2008, http://uvcarmel.org/2008/11/28/g-k-chesterton-on-thanksgiving/