Gratitude to whom and why?

A grateful attitude always brings a joyous sense of well-being, but knowing to whom we are grateful and why can make quite a difference. Do we sometimes express thanks for our good like a child who tears open a pretty package and bounds off to play with the toy, without looking at the card enclosed? Of course the child is grateful for the gift, but does he always immediately acknowledge the love of the one who sent it? Or feel the need of himself to return a measure of that love?

Gratitude can have numerous forms of expression, varying in sincerity. Sometimes "thank you" is a way of asking for more. Occasionally gratitude can be quite negative, even cynical, as when we say we are grateful that things are not worse. When we know everything is going well and when we know why, gratitude comes spontaneously; but when misery or lack seems very real, finding a reason for gratitude may take considerable effort. Yet that effort is the beginning of a healing experience. Just a penlight's ray of appreciation will bring hope into focus in the midst of despair.

Sometimes making a list of reasons for gratitude can help pull us out of despair and lead us to discover happiness. As we list our reasons, we may notice that some are more uplifting than others. To be grateful for a warm meal, a comfortable chair, and soft slippers may not be as strengthening as to be grateful for the opportunity to participate in a worthwhile purpose. Yet even gratitude for activity that extends beyond self leaves the most important reason undiscovered. To whom are we grateful for the good we are discovering? It is not enough to be grateful for things or even ideas if one does not acknowledge their source. Furthermore, are material possessions and pleasures the most important reason for gratitude?

Enjoy 1 free Sentinel article or audio program each month, including content from 1898 to today.

Keep your thinking above the clouds
November 19, 1984

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.