November is National Gratitude Month – an invitation to be more intentional in dwelling on that which we are grateful for in our lives.
Does your family practice any gratitude traditions, either during the month of November or year-round? Perhaps it’s sharing highs and lows of the day over dinner. Or, having a gratitude jar that family members add notes of thanks to all month and then reflect upon at the end of the month. Some families put up their Christmas tree early and string up daily gratitude notes that they read on Thanksgiving. Others may serve those in need as a way to remember their many blessings.
Whatever your tradition is, the point and purpose of a gratitude practice is to be intentional in thought about recognizing a gift you’ve been given (health, family, provision, opportunity, friendship, growth through hardship), acknowledging it as beneficial in your life (or having the potential to be beneficial in your life), and thanking God for it. These practices help us set our minds in a posture of gratitude. Research has shown that those who practice gratitude live happier, more thankful lives.¹ In other words, what we think about in our minds shapes the perspective we have on our lives. Therefore, we are well served if we are purposeful with the focus of our thoughts.
Good, True, and Beautiful Warrants Our Attention
The same is true with education. What our students think about in their minds shapes the perspective they have on the world and on their lives. Now, does this mean we shelter them from all things “difficult” or worldly? No, not at all. Our goal for our students is not for them to cultivate a narrow perspective on life, but a purposeful perspective. This means we are intentional in helping them establish standards and ideals for that which holds their time and attention. One of the tenets of a classical Christian education is its study of that which is good, true, and beautiful. By looking for and studying these virtues, our students begin to recognize what they look like and Who they look like. To know God is to know Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. Dwelling on these virtues shapes their perspective on what warrants their attention in life.
Profound, Yet Practical
While this may sound lofty and idealistic, the study of what is good, true, and beautiful is also extremely practical. As students recognize these attributes in the work of God and works of others, they begin to not only think about them, but to emulate them in their own work and in who they are. We study classical books that have stood the test of time because there is something good, true, and beautiful about them worth discussing. We study classical books because they require a mind to wrestle with their ideas within and to slow down to consider the content being consumed. We study classical books because to write beautifully, one must first learn to recognize, analyze, and appreciate beautiful writing. These are invaluable, practical skills to put into practice.
Putting It Into Practice
Paul writes about this too. In writing to the Philippians, Paul encourages them: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” He exhorts them to “put into practice” the lessons they have seen him live out. (Philippians 4:8-9) Regarding this verse, one commentary says this, “Paul understood the influence of one’s thoughts on one’s life. What a person allows to occupy his mind will sooner or later determine his speech and his action.”²
We are steeping our students’ minds in that which is good, true, and beautiful, so that their speech and action will be influenced by these same virtues. The world offers much for consumption. Some of it is good, true, and beautiful. Some of it is not. Our goal is to equip students first to discern the difference. And second, to be intentional in dwelling on those things which are good, true, and beautiful. And third, to put them into practice in their daily lives.
² “The NIV Study Bible,” commentary on Philippians 4:8.