Gratitude is one of my top strengths. It is an important part of my identity. So it is normal for me to read books and articles about the topic. Recently, an article What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? by Robert Emmons, (author, scholar, and thought leader about gratitude) caught my attention.
According to his article there are several new findings in the science and practice of gratitude and a perplexing question: What must be overcome as a culture or as individuals in order for gratitude to flourish?
Here are some things already known about the modern form of gratitude that we live with:
· It’s necessary for happiness.
· It’s considered to be a feeling.
· It’s contagious.
· It positively influences relationships and your emotional status.
While the above things are all true, there is something important missing. Interestingly, gratitude’s historic value was a virtue that led to action. According to philosophers such as Cicero and Seneca, gratitude is an action that included returning a favor. It was not just a feeling. This means when acknowledging feelings of gratitude, it’s important to put those feelings into action. This is not something I always do.
What does this mean to us today?
As a society that believes in seeking happiness, many still believe it will be found by accumulating things. Sometimes this even means relationships. The downside is many times these are seen as disposable.
Unfortunately, society still encourages a preoccupation with the self that often includes a feeling of entitlement that makes gratitude in the historical sense almost unnecessary. Ingratitude thrives. Life is seldom seen as the gift it is.
How many “thank yous” have you received, said, or written lately?
It is easy to fall into a mindset of entitlement by limiting gratitude to just a feeling. However, this is not enough for you to feel the full power of gratitude. It’s critical to take action or show how you feel in some way.
The antidote to this is clear. To be truly grateful, it is important to be humble. Humility sees the myth of self-sufficiency. We all need others to be part of the interconnection that lets you be both a receiver and giver.
It is spiritually and psychologically liberating to take action and give appreciation in return even though it is not required. It is a way of acknowledging life does not owe you anything.
While humility doesn’t come easily, it opens your eyes so you will have a grateful response to life – both feeling and action. In this way, gratitude sets you free to respond to the reality that all the good in life is ultimately a gift.
What do you think?
Until next time,