Jim Collins, in How the Mighty Fall, has identified pride is the mighty’s first step toward failure.
Although his finding is based on research into publicly traded companies, the five steps he identifies in their falling into irrelevance, apply equally well to us as individuals. So also does the solution: count your blessings. Collins’ research identifies this helped some successful companies not to be filled with pride. They recognized, and give credit to the fortunate breaks and happenings that contributed to their success, which they could claim no credit for. You could say, Thanksgiving saved them.
So, here is something for us all to try this Thanksgiving weekend. It is an assignment Collins gave to a group of successful leaders, to help them avoid the first step of falling.
“Count your blessings. All the good things that happened to us that we did not cause.
“Come up with 100.”
One hundred? In this time?
For those of us feeling challenged, this well known story of Corrie Ten Boom may help. In 1944 Corrie and her entire family were arrested for aiding Jews in Holland. Corrie and her sister Betsy were shipped to a concentration camp inside Germany. Corrie smuggled in a small Bible and together with her sister began holding Bible readings to boost morale. One day Corrie read: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” In The Hiding Place, Corrie writes the following of Betsy’s response.
“That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’ That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”
I stared at her, than around me at the dark, foul-aired room. “Such as?” I said.
“Such as being assigned here together.”
I bit my lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!”
“Such as what you’re holding in your hands.”
I looked down at the Bible. “Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all the women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.”
“Yes,” said Betsie. “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!” She look at me expectantly. “Corrie!” she prodded.
“Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds.”
“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for …”
The fleas! This was too much. “Bestsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted. “It doesn’t say ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are a part of this place where God has put us.”
And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.
I love that. “This time, I was sure Betsie was wrong.” Turns out, she wasn’t. Later Corrie found out the guards never came into their barrack because of the fleas. The guards never coming in, gave them an unusual degree of freedom in their barrack.
Come up with 100 blessings this Thanksgiving? Maybe I can do that. I’ll be looking for good in things that, maybe, I missed seeing at first. Some are more obvious than others. One of the traditional readings for Thanksgiving tells the story of Jesus healing 10 men with leprosy. The reading concludes (Luke 17:15-19):
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him — and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
There is a difference in being healed, and being well. Well may we grow away from thinking good is owed to us, and be moved to the thankfulness which fills us with joy and faith.