The Power of Gratitude

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is thankfulness expressed to the source of the good.

You can feel grateful, but you Do gratitude.

I often translate other people’s use of “gratitude” in my head to “looking for the good” because a lot of the good I appreciate is the inevitable result of the unfolding of the universe. If you use religious language, I would expect you to express gratitude to God for these things. But that is not my language.

Why is gratitude important?

Gratitude given and received helps us see our interconnectedness and interdepence.

Think of the last time you were grateful to someone. Did it make you feel closer to them?

Think of the last time someone expressed gratitude to you. Did it reinforce your sense of connection with them?

Feeling blessed or grateful makes us feel special, like we are being taken care of. Expressing gratitude reminds us not to take what we have been given for granted. It reminds us that we are dependent on others for our survival.

Receiving gratitude from others reminds us that we matter. We are always having an impact on those around us. When we choose to meet other people’s needs, we claim our place in the community.

Exchanging gratitude reminds us that giving to each other is a choice we make. People are not grateful for service provided in a transactional arrangement. When we pay for services or command others to meet our needs, we are not grateful. Gratitiude arises when people choose to help us.

Expressing gratitude acknowleges the sacrifices others have made on our behalf – they have done the unnecessary to help us meet our needs or desires.

In the depths of gratitude, we find belonging.

Cultivating Our Own Gratitude

Gratitude begins with noticing the good things around us and observing who other than ourselves was part of making them possible.

We must allow ourselves to be moved by the actions of others.

We must allow ourselves to acknowlege that we are better off because others have cared for us.

We must see let it matter that our needs are being met.

And then, we must express thanks.

To express gratitude:

  • name the specific positive impact someone had
  • be genuine – don’t stretch the truth
  • let your emotions show
  • say thank you
  • offer it as a gift without expectation

The Power of Receiving Gratitude

When we receive gratitude from others and accept it without question, explanation, or obligation, we receive evidence that we belong and that we matter.

To know that we belong and that we matter are two of the most important needs of human beings. Without these, we cannot ever feel safe and joy eludes us.

To receive gratitude meets these needs if gratitude is freely given.

Therefore, to earn gratitude, we must become givers of gifts.

Gratitude reminds us our shared humanity and binds communities together.