Gratitude has been a buzzword lately. Because Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I am seeing more and more “grateful hearts” and “gratitude lists” than before. And I love it. I love hearing about what people are grateful for– big and small. It brings a smile to my face that we can celebrate those things that bring us joy.
But why does gratitude matter? Beyond a cheerful blog post or hash-tagged Instagram photo, what is the point of being grateful and sharing about it?
I happen to think that true gratitude is not an end in itself. It is not passive or inactive. It is not just a posture in which one sits and considers one’s life quite swell. That would be complacency.
Instead, gratitude can move and shake us. It puts us on our feet and sends us out. We become less selfish and more sensitive to the needs of those around us. When we are truly grateful, we change, and our actions can follow suit!
What does gratitude look like? Here are a few possibilities:
1) Gratitude gives. When we experience gratitude, we are overwhelmed by what we’ve received, and desire to share that joy. Gratitude teaches us to be generous, because once we know how freely we’ve been given, we become people who freely give.
2) Gratitude demands less. There is nothing wrong with having a wish list, but gratitude keeps us from feeling the constant need to buy something new. It helps us to see that we are worth far more than our possessions, and that having more possessions will not improve our worth. Gratitude helps us see our stuff for what it is– just stuff.
3) Gratitude empathizes. Whenever we find ourselves lacking in mercy, we’re often also lacking in gratitude. When we choose to be grateful, we can empathize with those in trouble or in need. We lose the self-righteousness that often comes with a merit-based worldview, and instead reach out to comfort and care for those less fortunate.
4) Gratitude celebrates. Have you ever compared yourself to someone else and felt envy? Gratitude not only overcomes envy, but it also helps us to become celebrators of others’ victories. This can be a difficult thing to do when we are concerned with how inadequate we are, or how imperfect our circumstances might be. But when we are grateful, we are able to participate in the joys and successes that are not our own.
In what ways have you seen gratitude do a work in you? What are you most grateful for right now? I would love to know!