As most of us return to work after the Thanksgiving holiday, I’d like to take moment to reflect before dive we head first into Christmas. Sometime over the past four days, most of us were asked (or at least reminded) to share what we were thankful for. For a brief moment we eschewed material items in favor of our cherished relationships and countless blessings. This, of course, happened just before we headed out to buy a bunch of stuff that we just said didn’t make us happy (more on that in my next post). I am not the first to point out this Thanksgiving paradox (hypocrisy?) that seems to get more exaggerated year after year. The more I think of it, however, the more I am starting to wonder if the problem lies more in the focus of being thankful vs. being grateful.
In reviewing two great articles about the difference between thankfulness and gratitude, I was struck by a common theme: feeling vs. doing. When we say “thank you” or experience being thankful for something – receiving a gift or really great service – we feel good or happy because someone essentially was nice to us. In this instance the relationship is a transactional one: a waiter provides good service and gets a good tip while we enjoy a nice meal and pays for our food – everyone is happy and nothing more is required or expected. We say “thank you” when someone holds the door for us usually never to see that person again. Thankfulness isn’t bad, per se, but it’s a rather shallow experience when compared to gratitude.
Most days I try and complete a journal reflection that specifically asks “What are you grateful for?” Some days are harder for me that others, to be fair. But when I think about what truly brings me joy – a sense of happiness or contentment without transaction – I often think of my relationships and opportunities afforded to me…and often it’s the dog or cat. Any pet owner can relate to the unconditional love and affection that they provide. When I consider this love and affection as part of my gratitude, I am compelled to spend more time with them, to pamper them more and to cherish their relatively short time in our family. My feelings of gratitude move me to a place an action to deepen that bond and relationship.
Are there areas in your life where you’ve relied more on being thankful but not grateful? Perhaps you’ve limited your investment in a particular relationship or aspect of your life that could use some review. When we stop equating thankfulness with liking something we open ourselves to possibility to true gratitude.
Check out the posts from Odyssey and The Wisdom Post and let me know what think!
My thoughts and reactions to the world in which we live...completely biased and unfiltered.