What does Gratitude mean to you?
Do you have any? And what does it mean anyway?
Is gratitude simply a synonym for “thankful”? We have all sat around the dinner table and shared what
we are thankful for. A turkey with stuffing, return of health, a key relationship, an answer to a financial
problem, our freedom to pray and assemble publicly, our parents or grandparents, or the loving dog at
our feet. The list goes on and we then move to dessert.
Gratitude seen through a larger lens takes on more meaning.
I think gratitude is both more and different from thankfulness. This morning at our staff meeting, we
each reflected not on what we are thankful for, but on the actual meaning of gratitude. I was surprised
and the width and depth of the responses. It expanded my understanding and appreciation of gratitude.
See how these expanded perspectives about or understanding of gratitude will enhance your day.
I was both surprised and pleased by the diversity of thoughts about or definitions of the word gratitude.
One of the first reflections by a staff member enumerated the number of losses they have experienced
in their life. Loss of eyesight, loss of health to a chronic disease, and several other serious losses. He, in
this case, then spoke about recovering and regaining some of those losses: A return to eyesight in one
eye, the ability to control the chronic disease allowing him to run and exercise again. The gratitude point
is this; when we lose something valuable and then regain it, there is gratitude. We are reminded daily of
what has been found, newly experienced, or regained. “Thank you, God, for restoring my sight!” Or even
on a more mundane level, you know the feeling when you find your car keys. Gratitude multiplied.
Another staff member reminded us of the story of the 10 lepers in Luke. The story we read in Luke 17
suggests that gratitude is not just feeling thankful but acting on it. I had not really thought of gratitude
as an action verb, but always thought of it as a passive response to something good that happened.
Having gone back and re-read the story, there are some huge lessons for us. Humans struggle with
gratitude. Only one leper acted. He made the effort to came back and express his gratitude, the others
seemed to feel entitled and disappeared into their new lives without expressing thanks or a rise in their
gratitude thermometer level. What joy we can experience by helping others. The gratitude grows
exponentially when we take the time to say, “thank you”.
I’m challenged to remember to say, “thank you.” You too? As my grandmother reminded me, “There are
never too many thank-you’s. We can start each prayer with words of praise and gratitude to a God who
sent His only son, so we can experience eternity with him.
Gratitude is a utility: I looked up the meaning. A utility is a tool that facilitates something else to
happen, is useful or profitable. Our electric utility allows to heat our homes and keep the lights on. So a
relational utility, gratitude, makes us happier, more successful and better parents, friends and leaders.
Gratitude provides the energy that drives our passion to learn, reach out for what’s next, and lead.
Another staff member took gratitude in a different direction. As a matter of fact, he reminded us of a
Yogi “Berraism”: “When you come to a fork in the road, take one.” This fork led us to discovering gratitude as a discipline. We all know something of the spiritual disciplines. Some of them are bible
study, prayer, stewardship, community, silence, service, etc. When we discipline ourselves to practice
gratitude, it results n positive emotions, enthusiasm, and love. I’ve listed a few of the disciplines
recognizing that there are many spiritual disciplines each one moving us along in our spiritual growth.
Practicing gratitude is certainly a valuable one.
Whenever anything goes wrong, there always seems to be a victim, and never an admission of personal
responsibility. We see examples of this daily in the political arena, the family environment, the church
community and even in our neighborhood interactions. Embracing an attitude of gratitude protects us
from a victim mentality and frees us from a victim culture. It allows us to be more transparent, honest,
and relational. Without an attitude of gratitude our emotional world shrinks and becomes more self-
centered. With these perspectives, gratitude moves up on the scale of critical values used in
representing Jesus to the world.
Let us remember to be thankful. To appreciate the living gifts surrounding us, both the ones we enjoy
and the ones we learn from. The phrase, “a heart of gratitude” is running through my mind as I write
this. Here is one final reminder in this Thanksgiving season, over use your “thank-you.”