We say thank you to those who open doors for us, hand us a cup of coffee, or even plug an iPhone charger into the wall for us. For many, including myself, it’s a knee jerk reaction of etiquette. You say ‘thank you’ to be polite. While there’s nothing wrong with being polite, there’s more to being thankful than a quick ‘thanks’ on your way out the door. It’s all about gratitude and thankfulness.
Gratitude is the deep and abiding joy and appreciation of others, actions, or things. It’s a feeling. In contrast, thankfulness is how we express that gratitude to others. We need to learn how they fit together but lean on each other to be effective. When we do that, we’ll be able to practice gratitude and thankfulness in our lives.
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Have you ever heard the phrase “cultivate an attitude of gratitude?” I bet you have. And the reason it’s so cliche is because it’s true. A practice of gratefulness has plenty of benefits. Here’s a few:
- Health – People who are grateful are less likely to become ill and tend to take better care of themselves
- Psychological – Feeling gratitude increases happiness and decreases depression (among other psychological benefits).
- Relationships – Showing gratitude to someone – like sending a thank you note – encourages others to seek us out for possible friendships. It increases trust because we tend to open ourselves to others who invest in us that way.
You can also read more about the benefits of gratitude in Forbe’s article about the proven benefits of gratitude, but I think you get the idea. Gratitude is good for you.
But, as a Christian, I am called to be grateful (Colossians 3:16) but to express that gratitude, I must also be thankful.
We’re called to “give thanks always and for everything to GOD” (Ephesians 5:20). Okay, I can do that. I can pray, be kind to others, be obedient to Him. But, how do we express our gratitude in thanks to others? Try sending a letter (my favorite), a text, or an email. Or do it the old-fashioned way: say thank you in person.
If you’re not sure which way is best, might I suggest The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman? In the book, it discusses how we perceive love and how we show that love to others. With showing gratitude, it allows us to recognize how others prefer to be thanked – or be shown love. Think of it as one more way to build a supportive community or fellowship. If you don’t know a person’s love language, don’t worry. A verbal or hand-written thank you is enough to show your gratitude.
Here’s the thing though: if you feel gratitude – real gratitude – then you must show it. We are to give thanks with our whole heart (Psalm 9:1). Outpoured love – in the form of thanks – makes our world better. The best part? Being grateful and saying thank you is something anyone can do.
So, what am I thankful for? The list is infinite. However, for the sake of time, here’s a somewhat shorter list:
- My savior Jesus Christ, who died for me
- Husband and children
- My family
- Hugs from my children
- My dad’s sense of humor
- My mom’s care and love for me no matter how much I aggravate her
- Roof over my head
- Ability to read
- Soft kitten fur
- Fountain pens
- Ink in all its various colors
- The smell of paper
- The ability to convert images in my head into words on the page
- Softness of rose petals under my fingers
- Soft breezes on a warm spring day
- The view of the mountains from my living room window
- My husband’s ability to build
- My pink office and its chandelier
- The medicine that keeps me functional
- My dog’s unconditional love of me
- My cat’s unconditional love of chicken
- Good friends
- A pastor who reaches out and makes me feel comfortable
- My house slippers
- The rabbit hole that is Pinterest
And the list goes on. I try to write what I’m grateful for in my journal. It’s a meditative practice that reminds me that even when things get bad, there is joy that I can be thankful for.
Grateful VS Thankful
I know, it’s a fine line between these concepts. There is a reason that the dictionary lists ‘thankful’ and ‘grateful’ as synonyms. However, Fr. Stavros has written a short but powerful article on the difference between the two. His position is much like mine but he gives a better example than I do to illustrate the differences.
He says you can wake up grateful every day for good health but if you eat badly, don’t exercise, and drink excessively, you’re turning gratefulness into selfishness. He segues into why we should be grateful to GOD and how to express that in thanks. Anyway, go read it since it’s a great article for everyday gratitude and not just Thanksgiving.
Thankful For You
Here’s my chance to express the gratitude I feel. Thank you, dear reader. You are what makes writing worth the time and energy. I appreciate your visit to my blog to read my articles. Your love and support has made all of this possible. I wish you and your family a very wonderful Thanksgiving.